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Lawmakers Set To Receive Pay Raise, But Do They Deserve It?

BOSTON (CBS) - The State House News Service reports that on the eve of final votes on a controversial $18 million pay-raise package for top state political figures, two of the chief beneficiaries of the hikes - Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo - had a private which they did not discuss the raises.

"We were talking about the weather and what we had for lunch and a few other matters," Rosenberg told the News Service.

Now that's confidence. And why not?

There is no sign of any significant erosion in the veto-proof margins by which the raises were approved last week in both branches. There is no evidence of aggressive lobbying by Gov. Charlie Baker to turn that math around. There are some reports of a stream of phone calls to legislators protesting the pay hike, but all seemed quiet in the offices we visited today.

Still, for all their self-assurance, Rosenberg and DeLeo will be glad when it's done with, which could be by close of business Thursday. The process they used to get this casserole of raises for legislators, judges and the statewide officeholders into the oven was handled with swiftness and stealth, not pride.

"I thought there should have been more process behind this bill, and that's why I would have vetoed it," says Jay Gonzalez, for now the only announced democratic candidate for governor, who worked closely with the legislature as Deval Patrick's secretary of administration and finance.

And even a savvy Statehouse vet like Gonzalez draws a blank when we ask him if he knows what a House Division Chair is, and what they've done to earn an eye-popping 26.9% pay boost.

The four chairs are best understood as glorified hall monitors, interacting with lowly backbenchers on behalf of the speaker. In theory this could be useful muscle on a tight vote, which occurs infrequently in the House. But if you really need Division Chairs to shuffle the rank-and-file furniture, what use are the Majority Leader, Speaker Pro Tempore, Assistant Majority Leader and two Second Assistant Majority Leaders?

Perhaps these pay hikes will be soon forgotten by most; perhaps others will come to buy the self-serving spin of those receiving them that were well-deserved and long-overdue.

Still, the extension of tens of thousands of precious tax dollars in unnecessary raises to at-best marginal positions at a time when truly needy beneficiaries of state aid are begging for scraps is a stain on the legislative record that might not be so easy to rinse out.

"We're doing fine" when it comes to the override, Rosenberg told the News Service.

We'll see about that.

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