6:49 PM EST, January 18, 2013
As former state Rep. Astrid T. Hanzalek noted in a recent op-ed piece in The Courant, the number and expense of leaders in the General Assembly has increased to the point that "you'd think the state was awash in extra money."
Connecticut is not swimming in cash, of course. In fact, state government has less than is required to pay the bills. And so the part-time legislature's leadership caste, which seems to expand session by session, is looking increasingly out of place and in need of thinning.
When Ms. Hanzalek was first in the legislature in the 1970s, the leadership cohort of the majority Democratic party was fewer than 12 people and the minority party leaders numbered a modest half-dozen.
But today, at the dawn of a new session, all but 42 of the 151 state representatives have "leadership" positions and get a small bump in pay above their $28,000-per-year base salary. Same for the 33 of the 36 senators who have leadership positions, including committee chairmanships. The additional pay for leadership positions totals $686,405.
All members also get a transportation allowance and an unvouchered expense allowance amounting to $4,500 for each member of the House and $5,500 for members of the Senate.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey — reflecting his added responsibilities — gets more than $10,000 on top of base pay. Fair enough. But does he need seven deputy speakers and three assistant deputy speakers?
Does House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz really need seven deputy majority leaders, 10 assistant majority leaders and 14 whips?
The other caucuses have fewer leaders because they are smaller but they've all shown growth in the number of lawmakers named to a leadership post and given extra pay.
Aren't at least some of these titles and pay raises parceled out to keep party members in line or as a reward or as sort of a retention bonus to help some members manage in what is a low-paying job?
If so, that would be an abuse of the system.
The General Assembly's top-heavy leadership model ought to be the subject of scrutiny when the legislative branch's budget bloodhounds look for places to save money.
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