HARTFORD – All 187 state legislators need a $12,000 pay raise to attract a more diverse membership than what one member called the “lawyers, independently rich people, retired people and adults living in their parent’s basement” that now dominate its ranks.
“That’s what we’ve got here,” State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said at the State Capitol before the full General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a hike in legislators’ base pay from $28,000 to $40,000. “And that’s not truly representative of the people in our state.”
Other legislators said they just flat out deserve their first raise in 21 years because of the workload the part-time job brings.
“It is a job that entails work much longer than simply being in session days,” said State Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan. “And we are having a hard time getting qualified candidates to agree to run for this position, as much as we all enjoy it. Frankly, I work as an attorney and generally have to work seven days a week to try to catch up.”
State Rep. Bob Godfrey, a Democrat from Danbury first elected in 1988, cited his re-election campaign plans to march in upcoming Memorial Day parades as evidence of the job’s demands.
“Every one of us works every day of every year – weekends, holidays,” he said. “It is a full-time job. Members are leaving because they can’t afford to stay here.”
Godfrey recalled that in his early days at the Capitol he served with a plumber, a factory worker, and a utility meter-reader.
“We’ve lost that because people in those income levels, working middle class, just can’t afford the time off,” he said. “We skew a little toward the rich and I think you could probably make an argument that that skews some of the consideration of some of the legislation.”
After a relatively brief debate that included no speakers rising in opposition, the bill passed the House 95-53.
A few hours later, it was approved by the Senate 23-13 after hearing from only two members, both who supported it.
“There’s been a growing interest in the chamber and the public to increase compensation and to ensure that elected officials are compensated fairly,” said State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who was followed briefly by State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven.
The bill also would give a raise to the Governor, who now makes $150,000 annually, to equal that of the salary of the state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, now paid $226,000. Gov. Ned Lamont voluntarily declines his paycheck.
The current $110,000 salary of the state’s other constitutional officers – Lt. Governor, Secretary of the State, Attorney General, Comptroller and Treasurer – would be increased to that of a Superior Court judge, now averaging $189,000.
Legislators who hold leadership positions such as Speaker and leaders of their respective caucuses would receive raises from the current high $30,000-range to approximately $50,000.
The raises would take effect next January, and the state estimates the total annual cost at slightly more than $3 million.
This story has been updated to include the vote by the Senate.