With legislative retirements mounting, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were considering Monday raising the salaries of General Assembly members for the first time in more than two decades and indexing their pay in the future.
During a morning press briefing, House Speaker Matt Ritter told reporters that funding for pay raises had been included in a recently-drafted budget adjustment package and Democratic and Republican caucuses were discussing whether to pass implementing language.
“I think we need Republican votes and if we do not have those then we probably would not run it,” Ritter said.
The proposal would boost legislative pay after the next election from its current $28,000 base salary to closer to $44,000 a year, which approximately reflects the rate of inflation since the last time salaries were adjusted in 2001. In subsequent years, the pay would be tied to the employment cost index.
Leaders are also looking to raise the salaries of Connecticut’s constitutional officers, which include the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, treasurer, comptroller, and attorney general. Those salaries would be tied to the pay of the state’s Superior Court judges, who currently make more than the attorney general, Ritter said.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said it was worth having a conversation about raising legislative salaries. Candelora said he had become concerned with the number of recent retirement announcements from the legislative ranks.
“This position is becoming a job for people who are wealthy or work for nonprofits that benefit off of government. That is not the citizen legislation we should be looking for and so I do think we need to have the conversation,” Candelora said.
Although the legislature has been reluctant to debate raises amid the fiscal difficulties of the last few budget cycles, state revenues have surpassed expectations and lawmakers were preparing Monday to debate a budget including more than $500 million in tax cuts.
Meanwhile, a pair of retiring lawmakers put a spotlight on legislative pay during the General Assembly’s opening day in February. Groton Democrat Joe de la Cruz and Litchfield Republican David Wilson both said low compensation had contributed to their decisions to retire.
“The $30,000 a year we make to do this illustrious job, the one that we all really care for, is truly not enough to live on,” de la Cruz said. “It’s truly not enough to retire on or work for.”
“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.
Ritter credited both lawmakers with starting the conversation.
“It’s amazing sometimes what can spark consideration of things,” he said.
At a press conference Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont, who does not collect his own $150,000 salary, said he would support a bipartisan bill to raise compensation for elected officials.
“If you believe that, given the 28 or $32,000 base that it is for a legislator’s salary, that’s beginning to disqualify a number of people who otherwise would love to be able to serve their state and they can’t because they can’t afford it, it’s something that I would sign,” Lamont said.