Our Opinion: Beacon Hill pay perks must be earned

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Can someone be a leader with no followers? Or a legislative whip with no one to whip? Yes, on Beacon Hill.

Frank Phillips of The Boston Globe reported Monday that all six Republican senators in the Democrat-dominated state Senate collect additional leadership pay atop their $60,000 base salaries. But who are they leading? Donald Humason and Ryan Fattman are paid extra to be the minority whip and assistant minority whip respectively, jobs that by definition entail "whipping" the party rank-and-file into line. In the case of the six Republican leaders, however, there are no rank-and-file members in need of whipping.

"He can whip himself," quipped Mr. Hedlund of his deputy to the Globe.

The irony of Mr. Fattman collecting a $15,000 stipend for his no-whip job is that he is a tea partier who was successfully elected on a pledge to get rid of wasteful spending on Beacon Hill. He gained mileage by mocking the high travel allowances collected by some lawmakers.

Travel allowances, as opposed to extra pay for leaders without followers, pass the logic test, however. Legislators, like those in Berkshire County, who live far from Boston deserve compensation for gasoline and long miles driven. Move the State House from Boston to Pittsfield and then we can compare the travel allowances of Berkshire lawmakers with that of Mr. Fattman, who currently commutes to Boston from south-central Webster.

This is not to say that Democrats haven't abused pay perks over the years. Four of the majority leader's favorites receive an extra $15,000 to keep track of votes, which is a no-work job, or at best a strong-arm one.

This is also not to say that the chairmen of demanding committees don't deserve extra pay. Voters want Beacon Hill to be run efficiently and capable lawmakers should be rewarded for their skills and hard work. But with pay freezes and cuts common in the private sector, these taxpayer-funded perks must be earned. It is apparent that some are being given away.

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