Deval Patrick: ‘You have to be pretty well off’ to be governor

British Prime Minister David Cameron joins with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and visits the Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial in May. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
British Prime Minister David Cameron joins Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on a visit to the Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial in May. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Nearing his eighth year of state service after a successful career of corporate lawyering, Gov. Deval Patrick said it costs a lot to hold the office, but said an increase in the governor’s salary is not something that engenders support and that he would not push for a personal pay raise.

“It’s not an issue you get a lot of sympathy on,” Patrick told WGBH co-hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan during his most recent “Ask the Governor” segment on Thursday.

“I’m blessed. I mean, I made a little money before I ran. My wife’s still in the private sector,” said Patrick, whose wife Diane is an attorney at Ropes & Gray.

Describing the costs of entertaining and other expenses, Patrick said, “You have to be pretty well off in order to do the job.”

Patrick owns a home in Milton, which is on the market with an asking price of $1.5 million, and a manse in Richmond, near the New York border, called Sweet P Farm.

The governor recalled the travails of former acting Gov. Jane Swift, who was born in North Adams and moved to Williamstown, facing criticism for enlisting staffers to care for her infant daughter and to help her move.

“I remember reading about Jane Swift sleeping on the sofa of a relative when she was here and then having to schlep, two and a half, three hours home,” Patrick said. “You ought not have to have [to] live in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill in order to be governor.”

Several people who have achieved success in business are running for governor next year, including Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care chief Charlie Baker, health care executive Joe Avellone, investor Jeffrey McCormick and former health executive Evan Falchuk, all of whom primed their fundraising efforts with their own contributions as Patrick did in 2005.

Candidate and former Obama appointee Don Berwick has lent and donated to his campaign $100,000, and former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem loaned her campaign $30,000. Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has spent her career as a prosecutor and is married to a private investigator, has not made any donations to her state campaign account, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Patrick said he has voluntarily foregone some of the pay he is entitled to receive. According to Open Check Book, Patrick has an annual salary of $137,000 per year. The governor’s pay is laid out in statute, and the constitution, with a base of $140,535 with increases or decreases based on changes to the median household income since 2001.

Patrick noted that judges’ salaries were increased in the latest state budget, and said that had been backed by the business community and private attorneys. Judges’ salaries were increased by $30,000.

“Maybe one day the business community will step up and say it’s time for us to do, to kind of re-examine all this stuff and make some adjustments. I think it would probably have to come from them before it comes from me,” he said.

Patrick makes less money than members of his Cabinet, and many other state officials. He is scheduled to leave office in January 2015 and plans to return to the private sector, where he will no doubt be able to command a larger compensation package.

Shortly after the discussion on Boston Public Radio, Middleborough Selectman Allin Frawley called in with a question about the cost of recent gaming compact negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and a reminder about elected officials who make infinitely less than the governor.

“I serve as a selectman in the town of Middleborough,” Frawley said. “I don’t get paid a cent.”

Frawley told the News Service the governor’s office said they would follow up with the amount of money spent on the negotiations. The legislature budgeted $5 million for legal, financial and other professional services associated with the negotiations.

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