Some state lawmakers calling it quits because they can no longer afford to serve

HARTFORD, Conn. — Rep. Joe de la Cruz ran the question by his wife, whom he jokingly refers to as his lawyer and financial counselor when deciding whether to pursue a fourth term in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Connecticut State Rep. Joe de la Cruz (D-Groton) announces he will not be running for reelection during the opening day of the legislative session on Feb. 9 at the State Capitol in Hartford, Conn.

While Tammy de la Cruz didn’t want to dissuade her 51-year-old husband from continuing his part-time job, she admitted it wasn’t financially feasible for him to run again in November.

When Joe de la Cruz, a Democrat, declared in February that he would not seek reelection, he told fellow House members, “The retirement planner in her didn’t even have to use a calculator to do the numbers.” “The $30,000 a year we earn to do this illustrious profession, which we all genuinely care about, is truly insufficient to support us.” It is certainly insufficient to retire on.”

Similar objections have been made by legislators in other states, particularly those with part-time “citizen” legislatures. Three female state representatives in Oregon stated in March that they would not seek reelection because they couldn’t afford to maintain their families on a part-time salary for what is essentially a full-time job. In a combined resignation letter, they declared the situation “unsustainable.”

Legislators in Connecticut haven’t received a raise in their $28,000 base salary in 21 years.

Although how lawmaker wages are changed varies by state, measures to raise legislator compensation have been presented in numerous states this year, including Connecticut, Georgia, Oregon, and New Mexico, which has the nation’s only non-salaried legislature.

The bills have so far failed because some MPs are afraid of upsetting voters by supporting their salary rises.

It’s also unclear whether higher incomes result in more diverse legislatures, which proponents of pay rises argue is in jeopardy. According to a 2016 research published in the American Political Science Review, “surprisingly little empirical evidence” exists that raising politicians’ salaries will inspire more working-class people to run for office.

Higher salaries “don’t seem to make the political office more appealing to workers; they seem to make it more appealing to professionals who already earn high salaries,” according to the report.