We’re hearing about how increased pay for state legislators will lead to an improvement because as it stands too many people simply can’t afford the job.
Connecticut appears on its way toward at least doing something about the issue. As the Connecticut Mirror reported last week, base pay for state lawmakers would rise to $40,000 from $28,000 under legislation passed by the House and Senate. As the Mirror noted, lawmakers can’t vote to give themselves a raise, so the salary boost won’t take place until next year.
“I do not think that this chamber or the chamber upstairs truly represents the best and the brightest that this state has to offer,” said state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Chaplin Republican, as quoted by the Mirror. “And the reason is because this is a hell of a job to take. We are not part time, and we’re not full time. We are too much of each and not enough of either.”
Alida Cella, chair of the Wallingford Democratic Town Committee, made a similar observation in a recent Record-Journal story: “Part of the challenge of finding good candidates is the amount of work it takes to run, and the fact that at the end it is a part-time job, worked in a full-time manner for multiple months, that pays $30,000 a year,” she said. “We need a full-time legislature that pays a decent salary if we want good people to run.”
It indeed does not look as though democracy is being served well by a situation in which three of four state legislative positions that represent Wallingford are uncontested. Running unopposed at the moment are Democrat Liz Linehan, the incumbent in the 103rd House District, Mary Mushinsky, an incumbent Democrat representing the 85th House District, and Republican State Senator Paul Cicarella in the 34th State Senate District.
In the 90th House District, Republican incumbent Craig Fishbein, who is also a Wallingford town councilor, is being challenged by Rebecca Hyland. Hyland, a Northford native, is a former Virginia public defender who is making the juvenile justice system a focus in her campaign.
It’s important that these challenges take place, that candidates are compelled to vigorously seek votes, and that voters are offered a choice in elections. Better pay will likely make for a more diverse candidate field, and that’s worth supporting.