How much is a member of Congress worth to a state?

Persuasion and gladhanding, even from the greenest of freshmen sitting in the back rows of the House of Representatives, translate into projects and spending back home. There’s advocacy for important communities, such as the fishing industry, and key topics, such as the ecological mess created by combined sewers. Among the most valued work locally are a rep’s efforts to help individual constituents cut through entanglements with Social Security, Veterans Affairs or any of the wide array of government agencies.

That’s to say nothing of the clout of sending nine people to the House, as Massachusetts does and will continue to do this decade, in light of the U.S. Census count released Monday. Only 13 states have a bigger delegation.

Is it all worth $6.25 million? Easily, we’d say.

That’s the amount set aside in last year’s state budget to ensure an accurate census count in Massachusetts — the seventh-most spent by any state for the purpose, according to Statehouse reporter Christian Wade’s reporting a year ago. Money went into outreach programs and technical support, all of it in service of making sure people filled out their forms, thus preventing the state from shedding a seat in Congress, as it did a decade ago.

The count held every 10 years is high stakes, since it also affects how much federal money flows back into the state. And the census always stirs the pot, with winners and losers among the states. New York is dropping a seat, to 26 members of Congress. Had it tallied just 89 more people, The Associated Press reports, the Empire State would’ve saved that seat and Minnesota would’ve lost one.

So, we can live with the results that show Massachusetts coming in with 7,033,469 residents last year, a 7.2% increase from 2010, and New Hampshire with 1,379,089, an increase of 4.4%. We’ll be glad to not remove a chair, as seven other states now must do, and experience the political tectonics of wiping away a congressional district.

In the end, that was money well spent.


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