HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It has been two decades since Connecticut state lawmakers got a pay raise.
Residents may be surprised at just how low those salaries are for our so-called “part-time” legislature.
One lawmaker is willing to politically stick his neck out and talk about this.
Democratic State Senator Norm Needleman represents a 12-town district that stretches from Westbrook north to Portland. He’s also the first selectman for the town of Essex and an enormously successful business owner.
He does not accept any legislative pay because he doesn’t need it and only takes a token payment from the town.
He has taken the politically courageous position that it is time for the legislature to consider boosting lawmaker pay. Not right now, but in the not too distant future.
“It’s very important for the public to understand that the average legislative compensation is in the very low $30,000 range,” he said. “I think what you’re doing is effectively limiting the field of people that you’re getting at the Capitol.”
Five years ago, a special commission recommended raising the salaries by 10%, but lawmakers declined to take action on the recommendation because it was too politically toxic a topic to even discuss.
In further explaining his position, Needleman said, “We need to open up the field so that anybody who does this job can at least get by in a reasonable way, and yet, at the same time make the opportunity available to as broad a population as possible.”
Needleman said the low pay limits who can run and serve to those who are young and still living with their parents, or those that are older and don’t need the money, or those that have unique work situations.
State lawmakers have not had a pay raise in more than 20 years, and state law said that sitting legislators cannot vote themselves a raise.
State law states that any pay raise approved by lawmakers cannot take effect until the next term.