A Republican amendment to decrease lawmakers salaries by 5 percent over the next two years failed mostly along party lines by a vote of 111 to 35. It was the fifth amendment to the governor’s deficit mitigation plan.

“Why don’t we lead by example?” Rep. John Harkins, R-Stratford, asked his colleagues Wednesday.

He said taking a token cut in a base annual salary of $28,000 shouldn’t be a difficult decision. Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, said any lawmaker at any time can give back a portion of their salary to the state. Caruso took issue with the more than 40-minute debate on the issue and suggested that the goal of cutting should not be to win the support of public opinion.

The base salary for legislators is $28,000 a year; committee chairs make $32,241; majority leaders and minority leaders make $36,835; and the positions of Speaker and Senate President each make $38,689 a year. In addition, each House member receives a $3,500 stipend and each Senator receives a $4,500 stipend, which they don’t need to itemize. On top of that, each legislator receives health benefits, travel expenses, and possibly a pension if they serve the state for more than 10 years either as a lawmaker or a state employee.

Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Waterbury, said “It’s going to be easier for us to start sharing in the pain directly.”

“If not now, when?” asked Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers.

Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, said that as a Realtor for the past 25 years, he understands how difficult the economy is for many of his constituents. And, he said he appreciates Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s gesture to give back a day of pay Tuesday.

However, “today is not the day to do it,” he said.