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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Romney Vetoes Retroactive Pay Raises

Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed $32 million from the state’s supplemental budget that was meant to pay for retroactive pay raises for UMass and state college workers.

“Taxpayers who are trying to make ends meet, and who have been denied the tax cut they voted for in 2000, should not be asked to pay for retroactive salary increases for state employees,” Romney said in a press release put out last Friday. The veto affects 13,000 public higher education workers.

“We assumed that as a businessman he would understand the value of a contract,” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888 president Susana Segat told the Boston Globe. “It made us realize that he has a bigger agenda than running a good government. He has [launched] an attack on workers, an attack on our higher education system, and he’s relentless.”

But Romney left alone UMass Boston’s classified staff contract of $790,000. The staff had been waiting for the contract for three years.

Union officials called an emergency meeting late Friday as news spread of the vetoes, though it was initially unclear exactly what the governor had cut out of the budget. Some believed the contracts had been funded, as administrations officials warned to hold off until it was clear whether the budget’s Sec. 77, which had language giving UMass officials the flexibility to fund the contracts, was vetoed or given a lease on life.

Romney vetoed a total of $76 million, with $15 million in Medicaid spending, and $2 million in fire safety grants. The retroactive pay raises covered the timeframe of July to December 2003. Doubts remain whether the state Legislature will come back into session to fund the pay raises. With the election season heating up, legislators aren’t expected to come back to the issue until January.

Among the vetoes, there is some good news for UMass. Romney’s press release noted that the governor had approved $12 million to restore a matching program that encourages alumni fundraising. If UMass is able to raise $100 million, in the next five years the Legislature will match it with $50 million.

Not a bad start, but as the Globe noted in its “Campus Insider” column, the university system still behind in the race with rival University of Connecticut. UConn “recently announced it raised a record $75 million in 2004 (the state matched private gifts at 50 percent), bringing its total endowment to $250 million, more than twice the UMass fund,” according to the Globe.