Republican Efforts to Protect CT Dems Majority

As a registered Democrat, I ought to be appreciative of the efforts by CT House Republicans last night to protect the Democratic Majority in the State Legislature. However, as a person that supports increased citizen involvement, I’m actually glad that their efforts failed.

Last night, the State Legislature discussed a deficit mitigation effort and the Republicans presented many amendments that on face value seemed like good ideas. As an example, they proposed an amendment that would cut State Representative’s salaries by 5%. Given their inability to solve the financial crisis that faces our state, maybe that is a good idea. After all, when the CEOs of the carmakers sought a bailout, they offered to take a $1 a year salary. It must be nice to be able to afford to take voluntary paycuts.

Currently, State Representatives in Connecticut make something around $28,000 a year. Combine that with expenses and stipends, this can climb over $30,000 a year. That works out to be about $1,500 out of the pocket of each State Representative and back into the State Budget, a savings of over $200,000 a year overall. Since most of the legislators seem to have good paying jobs besides their part time job as legislators, this makes a lot of sense.

Rep. Hamzy even pledged to ask the Comptroller to cut his pay anyway. Good for him. I hope he follows through with his pledge and other State Representatives follow his lead. However, all of this appears to be a hollow gesture.

Rep. Hamzy, a partner at Hamzy and Conlin, a law firm which focuses on bankruptcy and divorce can probably afford the $1,500 pay cut much easier than his clients. Yet this gets to my concern about the effort. We need to make the job of State Legislator accessible to more people in Connecticut, including people like Rep. Hamzy’s clients, and not only to successful lawyers.

Another lawyer, Rep. Arthur O’Neill rose to speak against the amount of money made available to candidates participating in the Citizen’s Election Program. He felt that too much money was being made available for campaigns. He noted that he ran unopposed and did not take the $7,500 from the fund that he was eligible to. I applaud him for doing that and agree that the amount available to unopposed candidates should be reviewed.

However, he went on to suggest that the amount available in contested races is also too high. Rep. O’Neill hasn’t been in a contested race since 2002. Perhaps he needs a challenger to help him remember what is involved in campaigning and reaching out to his constituents. He spoke about the Citizen’s Election Program benefiting legislators. In fact, it isn’t about helping the legislators, it is about helping the voters, by providing voters with more choices and more information about the choices.

Cuts to the salary of State Representatives and cuts to the Citizen’s Election Program are both effective ways of protecting incumbents, and since the Democrats have a strong majority, they are ways to protect the Democratic Majority.

As a Democrat, who wants more civic involvement, to Rep. Hamzy, to Rep. O’Neill and their counterparts, Thanks, but no thanks.

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