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Legislators disagree on new pay raise

Date: 1/21/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

As many in the Commonwealth are losing their jobs or receiving pay cuts, state legislators are getting a raise.

The 5.5 percent raise approved by Gov. Deval Patrick earlier this month garnered mixed reactions among legislators.

Westfield State Rep. Donald Humason Jr. told Reminder Publications he would not accept the pay increase in light of the current economic times but rather donate the funds to Westfield community organizations.

"As government leaders, how can we tell our constituents, state employees and government agencies that they need to tighten their belts and endure the cuts brought on by this economy while legislators go ahead and accept a pay raise?" he asked.

"I didn't want a pay raise," Humason said. "It's the worst possible time to get a pay raise."

He noted the raise totals approximately $3,200. Humason explained that he will divide that money among 10 different Westfield community organizations over the next 10 months approximately $300 per month. He said the charities will include Westfield on Weekends, the Amelia Park Children's Museum, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA of Greater Westfield, the Westfield Athenaeum, the Council on Aging, the Westfield Veterans Council, the Westfield River Watershed Association, the Cancer House of Hope and Kamp for Kids.

However, other legislators such as Third Hampden District State Rep. Rosemary Sandlin and Sixth Hampden District State Rep. James Welch have chosen to accept the raise.

"I am taking the pay raise.I think that I deserve it because I work a lot of hours," Sandlin said.

She noted that she gives approximately $3,000 to charity and will continue to do so.

Welch said he has also accepted the raise because of his financial obligation to his family.

"It was a family decision," he explained. "Being a father of a young family, it makes the decision rather easy for me."

Sandlin explained that the raises are based on the cost of living index, which means legislators' pay will likely decrease in two years.

"I don't think there will be any cry two years from now when the cost of living goes [up] and we get a decrease," she said.

Second Hampden and Hampshire District State Sen. Michael Knapik and Hampden District State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti did not return calls for comment by press time.