March 4, 2022

Senator Haskell Cosponsors Legislation Seeking to Reform Legislative Pay, Elect More Representative Government

Legislator pay has not increased in Connecticut since 2001, making it nearly impossible for working-class people to run for office. This week, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) gave his support to legislation he co-sponsored that would match legislator pay to inflation – a necessary step to build a more representative government.

“This bill isn’t about increasing my salary. In fact, I’ll have left the General Assembly before this change takes effect,” said Sen. Haskell. “I’m co-sponsoring this reform because I’m frustrated that our Capitol building fails to reflect the diversity of our state. It’s popular to say that we should elect more women, more people of color, more young people and more working-class folks. It’s less popular to say how to make that possible: pay legislators an appropriate salary. No one should ever run for office to get rich, but perhaps serving in the legislature should no longer be a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. I applaud Rep. Godfrey for introducing this reform.”

House Bill 5073, “An Act Increasing Legislator Salary,” would increase the base salary of members of the General Assembly to $44,079.37 annually. That’s a 63% increase from the current base salary for legislators, $28,000; it would reflect 21 years of inflation. Recently, multiple legislators including State Representative Joe de la Cruz (D-Groton) and State Representative David Wilson (R-Litchfield) announced they would not run for public office again, citing the financial challenges of stagnant salaries.

Comparable legislatures in the northern and mid-Atlantic United States operating on similar schedules include New Jersey ($49,000 per year), Delaware ($47,291 per year) and Maryland ($50,330 per year).

According to a study conducted by New American Leaders, state legislatures that meet for longer sessions and provide higher salaries for lawmakers and staff pass more bills overall, more bills per legislative day and have higher rates of contact with constituents.

States with lower pay rates for legislatures often require lawmakers to have second sources of income outside of their official positions and creates a barrier for individuals to run, the study found. In Georgia, where legislator pay is just $15,600 annually, 85% of the House of Representatives have second jobs while 66% of the State Senate is comprised by consultants, business executives, attorneys or the self-employed – industries that do not represent the general public. Florida’s part-time legislature is mostly comprised of the self-employed, retired or wealthy, the study found.

The study further found that low legislator pay prevents the legislature from being proportional to resident populations. In Georgia, while the population is 51.4% female, only 31% of legislators are women; roughly 60% of the state population is white, while 71% of legislators are white. In New York, where wages have risen for legislators in the last seven years, the proportion of women in the legislature has risen 7% accordingly, the study found.

Most recently, the legislation was referred to the Appropriations Committee.