Connecticut lawmakers this year will consider a bill from a veteran legislator to raise the $28,000 salaries of General Assembly members for the first time in more than 20 years.
In a bill drafted last week and referred to the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, has proposed to increase legislative salaries to just over $44,000 per year. If passed, it would represent the first increase in legislative pay since 2001. Any change would not go into effect until after the next election.
On Monday, Godfrey said the change would barely adjust the pay for the rate of inflation over the past two decades. Legislative pay has remained stagnant in part due to the public perception that state lawmakers enjoy the six-figure salaries that federal representatives are paid, Godfrey said.
“It’s all perception issues. There’s no question about it. People think we’re congressmen and we’re making a quarter million dollars a year when you add up all the perks and the salary. Clearly we’re not,” Godfrey said.
The topic of legislative compensation surfaced earlier this month when the General Assembly convened its 2022 session. During floor speeches on opening day, two lawmakers, Groton Democrat Joe de la Cruz and Litchfield Republican David Wilson, announced they would not seek another term. Both said legislative pay was too low.
“This is going to sound really strange coming from a Republican but I entirely agree with my good representative on the other side of the aisle that we are underpaid for the work that we do and that our job is much more than a part time job,” Wilson said.
Godfrey, who was first elected in 1988, said that over time, the static wages have boxed out otherwise qualified candidates and prevented the legislature from being an effective cross section of Connecticut’s population.
“When I was first elected, one of my colleagues in Danbury was a plumber. Another colleague from Bridgeport was working on an assembly line. We had a guy who read meters for [Connecticut Light and Power]. None of that is true now,” Godfrey said. “It means the legislature skews towards rich people and that means the laws that are enacted skew toward rich people.”
Asked earlier this month about the concept of approving salary increases, House leaders on both sides of the aisle seemed open to the idea.
House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said it was a valid argument to have, although low on his priority list. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said the current compensation restricted who could participate in the process and sometimes resulted in conflicts of interest when legislators got second jobs working for state-funded nonprofits.
House Speaker Matt Ritter said he would allow a vote on the concept only if it was supported by majorities in both parties.
“But it’s not going to be carried by Dems and it shouldn’t be carried by Rs,” Ritter said.
Asked Monday about the future of his bill and whether it would find support among his colleagues, Godfrey declined to make predictions. “I put this little sailboat in the water and I have no knowledge of how the winds are going to blow,” he said. However, he hoped lawmakers would increase the salaries of their own positions soon.
“If it continues to be extremely low you’re going to see more and more people not becoming candidates,” Godfrey said. “We need to have a legislature that looks more like Connecticut and we don’t have that now because people can’t afford to serve.”