Connecticut’s first legislative pay raise in more than 20 years is unexpectedly seriously slated for a vote on Monday as lawmakers begin their three-day sprint to their adjournment deadline at midnight Wednesday.
With the state running a surplus and lawmakers poised to cut taxes, legislative leaders discussed over the weekend whether now might be a good time to raise base pay. of $28,000 which took effect in 2001.
“At some point you have to do something,” said House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford.
The issue of salary increases would be a surprise addition to the agenda of the General Assembly which intends to vote on the revisions of the second year of the biennial budget before turning to a shrinking list of priority bills. .
Lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday with more than 500 bills still technically alive and awaiting action, but the bar is high for passage in the final days.
With limited time and a General Assembly committed to its tradition of unlimited debate, moving business forward in the last days requires consensus from both parties and both chambers.
Before leaving minutes after midnight on Friday, the Democratic majority in the Senate used parliamentary procedure to kill six House bills, in retaliation for a bipartisan decision in the House to amend a Senate bill, apparently without the consent of his sponsor.
“It’s going to be an interesting few days,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford. “Certainly the budget … is something we know we need to do for the state of Connecticut, but beyond that, I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
Pay inflation adjusted?
The issue of legislative compensation received an unexpected showcase on the opening day of the session in February.
One lawmaker from each party, Democrat Joe de la Cruz of Groton and Republican David Wilson of Litchfield, announced they would not seek re-election and that salary was a factor. De la Cruz noted that the subject is generally taboo.
“A politician asking for money on the floor of the House sounds crazy, but I can do it because I’m about to walk out,” de la Cruz said.
“This is going to sound really strange coming from a Republican, but I totally agree with my good rep across the aisle that we’re underpaid for the work that we do and that our work is so much more than a part-time job,” Wilson said.
Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, who was elected in 1988, introduced a bill that would raise the base salary from $28,000 to just over $44,000, a figure he says equals current salary, adjusted for inflation.
With an allowance for expenses — $4,500 for House members, $5,500 for senators — and a slight additional pay for leadership positions, most legislators’ compensation ranges from around $32,500 to $35,000.
The appropriations committee approved Godfrey’s bill for a public hearing, but it died after the committee’s deadline passed. Legislative pay could still be submitted to the House and Senate with the consent of the Speaker of the House and the acting President of the Senate.
Ritter said he would take the matter to his House Democratic majority caucus to gauge the comfort level in voting for the raises. The exact amount was still under discussion, but the range being considered for base salary was between $37,000 and $42,000.
If passed, any legislative increases could not take effect until January, when the winners of the November election take office and begin their two-year terms.
Ritter said the move would be unlikely with some support from both sides. Republican House Leader Candelora said he favors wage increases and indexing wages to inflation.
“We should just increase our salary with inflation,” he said.
Tensions cloud the legislative agenda
Beyond the budget and a short list of consensus measures, the rest of the agenda was unclear.
House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said the House is committed to voting for final passage of Senate Bills 1 and 2, two bills addressing health issues mental in children. One passed unanimously in the Senate, the other more or less.
Rojas said he was unsure of the consequences that could flow from the Senate leadership’s decision to kill six House bills by sending them to committee.
“It’s a sign of the tension, the nature of the tension in the House and the Senate. Whether or not this continues in the next few days, who knows? he said.
At issue was how the House handled Senate Bill 5, a measure intended to provide safeguards related to online dating and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Candelora said Democrats and Republicans in the House believe the bill expands the definition of sexual harassment to the point of making enforcement impractical, so it was amended and sent back to the Senate.
“We didn’t kill their bill. We sent it back in time for it to be voted on. And the amendment was based on a principle, an issue that more than a majority of House members had with the bill,” Candelora said. “So to suggest that we don’t have the right to deliberate and send a bill to the Senate is disturbing.”
In retaliation, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff closed Friday’s session by returning six House bills.
“Recommitting Bills and killing them because you want revenge on people is something I’ve never seen done in these chambers,” Candelora said.
The bills appear to have been chosen to punish some lawmakers involved in amending Senate Bill 5, Candelora said.
Duff declined to comment.
The recommitted bills were House Bills 5374, 5232, 5382, 5240, 5140, and 5387. Their topics range from establishing a commission to commemorate America’s 250th anniversary to rules for hand-harvesting crabs. horseshoe.