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Patrick, Legislative Raises, and the Tools of Power

I was distressed by today’s Globe article about Governor Patrick offering legislative leadership pay raises in exchange for power over existing quasi-governmental agencies. It’s a bad idea. I question whether or not he understands the effects of what he’s doing, and not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

According to the article, Patrick is offering raises for certain legislative leadership positions in exchange for advancing his agenda with the legislature. The first reaction is one of distaste: “He’s bribing them to do what he wants!” I suspect that most people read it that way.

The second reaction is not as widely held, but still common. If you support Patrick, you probably said to yourself: “Well, if that’s what it takes, it’s worth it. ” When you said those things, you used one or more of the following reasons:

  1. It’s only $80,000 in raises.
  2. It’s unfortunate that Patrick takes a publicity hit, but it’s better to do that early in your term than during election season.
  3. If that’s what the legislature wants, if that’s the price of progress, it’s totally worth it. Let Patrick lead!

I’m thinking about something different. In 2003, Finneran tried to do something very similar. He tried to pass raises for his leadership. It was vetoed by Romney, and the veto was not overriden. Opponents to the measure included Common Cause and the Globe.

The problem with these raises is the narrow group of people that are rewarded. These raises are a tool of power. Oppose the speaker or senate president? Lose your leadership position, and lose your big raise. Do what you’re told? Maybe you, too, can get the raise. These are the same tools that Finneran used to maintain his power.

Does Patrick understand that he’s further entrenching the leaders of the General Court? I don’t care if you trust in DiMasi and Traviglini, because neither is there forever. In a different state, leaders change because of party and policy. In the Massachussets legislature, there is only one party. Leaders don’t get chosen because their policy choices are rejected. Leaders change because they are indicted, have a health issue, or run for governor.

I’m not thrilled with Patrick trying to buy legislative support. Legislators may be underpaid, but let that argument stand on it’s own merits.

If Patrick is trying to buy legislative support, I want him to buy all legislators. Don’t provide one more tool to an already-powerful set of legislative leaders. We have enough one-party problems already.

A caveat: I carefully note that the Globe didn’t run any actual quotes. Five different times the Globe attributes statements to “sources” or “one source.” If it turns out that this is all a distortion, I’ll take it all back. And I’ll feel better about the state’s leadership.


Comment from Harry
Time: January 29, 2007, 10:13 am

Dan, a very honest post, with an excellent point about the folly of further entrenching the dictatorial power of leaders in our 1-party legislature. I noted the same point in my post on the Globe article. Perhaps being a principled liberal makes you now a part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Comment from dunster
Time: March 8, 2007, 12:05 am

I was checking past comments, and I realized I forgot to thank you for commenting.

I don’t know if I’m a principled liberal or a principled member of the VRWC. I’ll settle for “principled” and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » None Of The Above
Time: July 22, 2007, 5:37 pm

[…] I’ve often written about the effects of single-party politics in Massachusetts. […]