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General Assembly approves raises for lawmakers, statewide officers

The pay for Connecticut’s lawmakers and statewide constitutional officers would increase on Jan. 4, 2023, for the first time in more than two decades under legislation that sped Tuesday through the House and Senate.

Base pay for lawmakers would go from $28,000 to $40,000, while the salaries of most constitutional officers would be pegged to the pay of Superior Court judges. The governor’s salary would match that of the Supreme Court’s chief justice.

“It’s time,” said Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury.

House passage came on a 95-53 vote after a brief and seemingly choreographed debate in which two Democrats and three Republicans spoke in support and no one rose in opposition.

The Senate then voted 23-13 for final passage after a non-debate: Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, was the only one to speak after Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, gave a perfunctory summary of the bill.

“I don’t see anyone else rising, but I would certainly yield the floor to anyone who wanted to speak before me,” said Looney, who typically gets the last word in debates.

No one else rose to speak.

By constitutional mandate, lawmakers cannot vote to give themselves a raise in their current terms. The higher salaries do not take effect until January, when the legislators and statewide officers elected in November take office.

The bill also would depoliticize the question of future raises.

Salaries of lawmakers would be pegged to the Employment Cost Index, a measure of wage growth calculated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the same index that will be used to calculate minimum wage increases after 2023.

Pay for the governor and other constitutional officers — lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, comptroller, treasurer and attorney general — would get parity with judicial compensation.

The governor’s $150,000 salary would go next year to $226,711, the same as the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Pay for the other officers would go from $110,000 to $189,483, the same as a Superior Court judge.

Unable to find the votes for a pay raise over the years, the legislature has developed workarounds, primarily through a proliferation of leadership roles that come with a stipend. In addition, $4,500 in expenses is paid to House members, $5,550 to senators.

The new top pay in the legislature would be $52,000 for the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate. Majority and minority leaders would get $50,000, and committee co-chairs and ranking members, $44,000.

Gov. Ned Lamont, an independently wealthy former businessman who does not accept a state salary, is expected to sign the bill.

Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, one of the legislature’s most conservative members, was the unexpected choice Tuesday to make the strongest case for passage. He argued the low pay and full-time demands of a technically part-time job limits who can run.

“I do not think that this chamber or the chamber upstairs truly represents the best and the brightest that this state has to offer. And the reason is because this is a hell of a job to take,” Dubitsky said. “We’re not part time, and we’re not full time. We are too much of each and not enough of either.”

By constitution, the legislature meets for three months in even-numbered years and four months in odd-numbered ones. But special sessions can bring them back throughout the year, and constituents reach out regardless of the calendar.

The majority of lawmakers hold outside jobs.

“It makes it incredibly difficult for regular people in a diversity of jobs to do this. That’s why we are over representative of lawyers, independently rich people, retired people and adults living in their parents’ basement. And that’s what we’ve got here,” Dubitsky said.

Rep. David Wilson, R-Litchfield, who announced on the opening day of the session that he could not afford to seek a third two-year term in November, said the cost to the state for raises was relatively minimal compared to other spending.

“So I hope that the good folks listening on CT-N and the media that’s covering this particular piece of legislation will give us our due and understand that we’re kind of in a dilemma here,” Wilson said. “How do you find qualified people — many, many who work for employers who are not willing to give them time off?”

Godfrey, who was elected in 1988, said the General Assembly has become less diverse economically. He recalls the difference from his first year.

“There was one who was a plumber. There was one who had just come off an assembly line,” Godfrey said. “A couple of years later, we had a member who was a meter reader for CL&P. We’ve lost that, because people in those income levels, working middle class, just can’t afford the time off in order to do the full time job up here.”

Dubitsky said his own preference would have been a truly part-time legislature, but he noted that efforts to either limit the demands on lawmakers or transform the General Assembly to a full-time job gained no traction.

“So the question is, so what do we do? We’ve got this system in place that is designed to limit the type of people who can do this job. And I think that’s wrong,” Dubitsky said. “Right now, before us, we have a bill that changes it to some degree, not the change that I had thought would be proper, but it’s a change.”

And that was enough for his vote.

He was one of 11 Republicans, including House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, to vote for the raise. Eleven Democrats voted no.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the Democratic majority would have been unlikely to go forward without GOP support.

In the Senate, Republican John Kissel of Enfield joined 22 Democrats in support. Democrat Joan Hartley of Waterbury was the sole Democrat in opposition.

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