Massachusetts House Leadership Gets Huge Payoffs with Their Inflated Titles

I hope that if new Auditor Diana DiZoglio does get to audit the legislature, she will take a long hard look at the proliferation of phony-baloney jobs in “leadership,” and the huge payoffs that come with the absurdly inflated titles.

It’s not as out-of-control as what’s been going on at the University of Massachusetts. But then, there are only 200 solons who must be paid off on Beacon Hill.

Base pay now for legislators is $73,655 (plus the travel allowances of $15,000–20,0000). But only the most hopeless lames (even by state-rep standards) subsist on the minimum.

Just about every hack is getting bonus money for their “leadership,” even Republicans. For instance, Rep. Brad Jones, the leader of the ever-dwindling GOP minority, made $85,212.64 extra last year on top of his then-base pay of $70,537.22.

Then there’s the House Speaker, Ron Mariano, age 76. His “bonus” will be $109,163 this year, up from $90,893 last year. Plus the travel dough. For sure, Mistah Speakah is staying ahead of Biden’s disastrous inflation.

There’s a lot for DiZoglio to dig into here, beyond those non-disclosure agreements she’s obsessed with. Leadership used to mean you were in fact a “leader” of sorts. Those days are long gone.

On Friday, I called Mariano on his cell phone to chat about his leadership “team,” which carries a much larger roster than the New England Patriots do.

On Mariano’s team, I count 10 members of “leadership,” 22 chairs and vice chairs of “House Only” committees and another 62 chairs and vice chairs from “Joint Standing Committees,” meaning they also have Senate chairs and vice chairs.

That means almost 100 of the 130 or so House Democrats are getting bonus “stipends” for their roles in “leadership.” And don’t forget the GOP payroll patriots.

I asked Mariano about the speaker pro tempore, a job whose duties I’ve never quite understood.

Who is the speaker pro tempore? I asked him.

He pondered for a moment before replying.

“All this is public information.”

Actually I had already looked it up. It’s someone named Kate Hogan, age 66, of Stow. I wouldn’t have asked her name except that when I first inquired about the duties of the august position, Mariano had started mentioning what “he” did. And sure enough, when I asked, Mariano couldn’t come up with the name of his extinguished, er distinguished deputy.

But Hogan is eminently qualified for her extra $68,226 (up from $56,808 last year) as speaker pro tempore. She’s a member of at least three protected classes — female, lesbian and geriatric.

Hogan’s biography on the legislature’s web page informs us that she is, among other things, a tireless advocate who shepherds landmark legislation and proudly facilitates opportunities.

“She believes her job is to create consensus, build alliances and work towards solutions.”

A deep thinker in other words. But then, she went to UMass in the pre-BORG era.

The majority leader is Mike Moran of Brighton. I first met him when he was a City Hall payroll patriot, collecting signatures for Dapper O’Neil in the Roche Bros. parking lot on Center Street. He gets an extra $81,872 a year.

The Ways and Means chairman is Aaron Michlewitz, who was deeply saddened when his first godfather at the State House, Speaker Sal DiMasi, was lugged by the feds on an extortion rap. Michlewitz now runs Ways and Means for an additional $88,694 (up from $73,850 last year).

Remember, all this cash is on top of their base pay of $73,655, plus the travel allowances.

Then you have the four “division leaders” whose duties are even less arduous than the speaker pro tempore’s. They include Rep. Paul Donato, age 81, and Rep. Ruth Balser, age 74. They get an extra $40,936 (up from $34,085). That’ll buy the wrinkly division leaders a lot of early-bird specials.

And then you have those 40-plus committees, with the chairs (most of them getting an extra $20,468) and vice chairs ($7,095).

In the old days, only a handful of chairmen got bonus pay, and there weren’t any damn vice chairmen.

But speakers always had to worry about the next palace uprising against them, because the rank-and-file knew they had no upward mobility. But if you threw ‘em a nickel or a dime…

As Sen. Alan Sisitsky once observed, “Most of these guys, you can buy ‘em with a water cooler.”

The speaker known as Felon Finneran put Sisitsky’s theory into practice. He controlled the purse strings, and he well knew that few of these hacks, then or now, had ever worked an honest day in their lives. There’s no way they would ever risk their “stipends.”

Everyone became a chair, or something. Legislative revolts ended. Everyone gets a meaningless title, and a few grand extra. The speaker’s control is absolute. Cash, it turns out, is much more effective than a water cooler.

Any new committees this year, Mr. Speaker?

“I think agriculture,” he said.

Once you start creating new committees — and the pay raises that come with them — where do you stop? The Global Warming Committee — surely we need a Global Cooling Committee as well. If we must have a Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion Committee — how about a Transgender Equity Committee too?

Mariano seemed to be growing tired of my questions, but I asked him anyway: Do we need all these silly committees that only exist to keep hacks in line?

“It all depends on whether you care about the issue or not,” he said. “You could make the argument we don’t need them, or that we need even more, if you’re interested in the subject.” He paused for a moment. “You know, I know what you’re going to do with all this. I could write this column for you.”

Well, Mr. Speaker, how am I doing?

I asked him one final question. What does he think Diana DiZoglio is trying to do with this audit proposal of hers?

“I don’t know what she’s looking for, to be honest with you,” he said.

I think I do. You know, she could write this column faster than either one of us.

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