Patrick reaches again for the taxpayers’ credit card

There is a lot of frustration out there today about Governor Patrick’s announcement this week that approximately four thousand state employees will soon receive a three percent raise in pay, at a total annual cost of somewhere around $10 million.  Even the Globe instinctively recognizes the incongruity of this move with the Commonwealth’s still ugly budget reality, writing in the very first paragraph of its front page story,

Governor Deval Patrick granted a 3 percent raise yesterday to 4,000 state managers beginning July 1, despite a budget that cuts higher education, local aid, and social services.

As usual, the Herald is less sanguine in the opening to its own story,

Lawmakers and unions slammed Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday for triggering a pay-raise bonanza to the tune of nearly $10 million with a 3 percent salary hike for as many as 4,000 state managers – even as Bay State residents face frozen salaries and unemployment.

Differences in  tone aside, the subtext of both takes is the same: ‘What the $!&!#$??”

Let me get a qualifier right out front: vilification of public employees frequently goes overboard, especially in the budget context.  Plenty of the people who will receive what is no doubt a welcomed pay increase work hard and do a good job, and with a median salary among the targeted group (executive branch managers) of around $84K, no doubt many of them struggle to keep pace with the rising cost of living and the myriad financial pressures exacerbated by the ongoing recession.  This is not about that.  It is about math.

Yeah, but is there a credit card in there?

We hear endless rhetoric from the Governor about the dire budgetary situation, the deep cuts he has already made (“through the fat and into the bone” is a Patrick favorite).  Underfunded services, cities and towns forced to cut to the quick, quiet but persistent rumblings of new “revenue” measures. And then… a sudden, $10M discretionary expenditure (there have been reports that this hike was forced by a contract, but that is inaccurate – at most, it is a discretionary move intended to keep managers’ salaries on pace with other state salaries that are set by contract).

So how is the move justified?… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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