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OLR Research Report


COMMISSION ON COMPENSATION

OF

ELECTED STATE OFFICERS AND JUDGES

REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

February 2011

February 2011

To: Members of the Connecticut General Assembly

On behalf of the Commission on Compensation of Elected State Officers and Judges, established by Section 2-9a of the Connecticut General Statutes, I hereby offer the commission's 30th report to the members of the 2011 session of the Connecticut General Assembly for your consideration.

As you are aware, the Commission is charged with recommending to the General Assembly legislative proposals for salary, expenses, pension, workers' compensation, and any other benefits to be paid to the governor, other state constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, and judges of the courts of the state, except judges of probate (CGS 2-9a(b)).

Commission members are pleased to serve the State of Connecticut in this capacity. We are ready to provide any information and assistance the General Assembly may require in its deliberations on legislation and any other necessary action.

Sincerely,

Lewis B. Rome

Chairman

COMMISSION ON COMPENSATION

OF ELECTED STATE OFFICERS AND JUDGES

MEMBERS

Appointed by the Governor

Susan W. Ahrens of Simsbury

John Miller of Wethersfield

Lewis B. Rome of Bloomfield, Commission Chairman

Appointed by the Senate President Pro Tempore

Sheila B. Amdur of West Hartford

Biagio “Billy” Ciotto of Wethersfield

Appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Richard Balducci of Deep River

Daniel J. Fox of Stamford

Appointed by the Senate Minority Leader

Vincent M. Marino of Orange

Justin Bernier of Plainville

Appointed by the House Minority Leader

Richard Eriksen of Durham

Paul S. McNamara of Ridgefield

OBJECTIVES

For many years, the work of independent bipartisan compensation commissions has been guided by seven objectives:

1. to recommend compensation levels that will assure that state service can attract competent and effective people;

2. to recommend levels that will make public service possible for every eligible citizen, not just those whose financial status enables them to serve;

3. to recommend levels that will compensate elected officials and judges adequately for the time required and the experience necessary to perform the duties of their offices;

4. to recommend compensation appropriate for the officials of a state that is economically and socially diverse and highly developed industrially;

5. to recommend levels that compare favorably with those set for elected Executive Branch officials and judges in states of similar complexity and size;

6. to recognize changes in cost of living indices for the state, region, or both; and

7. to recommend compensation levels appropriate to the state's financial resources.

Commission members believe firmly that their purpose is to help attract able people from all walks of life to the service of the State of Connecticut. Great public servants often draw from their private careers the experience, wisdom, and understanding of people's lives, needs, and aspirations that superior state service requires.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Judges

Salaries for judges and family support magistrates and the per diem rates paid to family support magistrate referees, senior judges, and judge trial referees should automatically increase based on the average salary increases (excluding longevity payments) for executive branch managers. The recommendation foresees that when executive branch managers receive a raise, judges would receive the same average percentage raise in the following fiscal year.

Given the severe budget crisis the state continues to face, the commission acknowledges that such raises are not likely in the immediate future. Nonetheless, the commission believes the General Assembly should enact legislation creating the link between executive branch managers and judges (and related judicial positions mentioned above) so judges, like other state employees, will have a real expectation of future salary increases. It has been four years since the last salary increase for judges.

Constitutional Officers and Members of the General Assembly

This year the commission does not put forth a recommendation regarding salaries for constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly. But this report includes a minority report regarding salaries for these officials (please see page 8).

Judicial Findings

The commission holds that a reasonably compensated judiciary is essential to Connecticut continuing to have a high quality criminal and civil justice system. Connecticut's judges' salaries are set in statute and change only when the legislature takes specific action. Currently, no pay increase is scheduled for judges, whose pay has not increased since 2007. On the other hand, in years when the state budget and economy are in good condition, most state employees can expect some type of regular pay increase.

The commission heard testimony from Judge Barbara M. Quinn, the chief court administrator, who for the third year in a row made it clear the Judicial Department is fully aware of the state budget crisis and was not asking for an immediate pay raise for judges (see Attachment 1 for her full statement). But she requested the commission consider recommending linking judges' raises to those for executive branch managers. She noted the Judicial Branch has made this suggestion, and the commission has recommended it, in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (the commission did not issue a report in 2010).

“As you know, linking judges' salaries to the increases that executive branch managers receive will not result in a salary increase for judges, as executive branch managers will not see an increase in their salary for the foreseeable future,” she stated.

“The benefit of this mechanism is that linking increases in judges' compensation to the annual percentage that executive branch managers receive would ensure that the judges receive the same equitable pay arrangement as others in state government,” Judge Quinn stated.

The commission also heard testimony from Judge Theodore R. Tyma, president of the Connecticut Judges Association (see Attachment 2 for his full statement). Judge Tyma stated that while the judges are not seeking a raise in the current budgetary crisis, they are also asking the commission to again endorse linking judicial raises to executive branch managerial raises.

“Under this proposal, judicial compensation would be increased only when state managers received an increase during the previous fiscal year,” Judge Tyma said. “For example, if the managers received a cost of living adjustment on July 1 during a given year, the judges would receive an equal increase in their compensation on July 1 of the following year.”

He added that considering state managers have not had a raise in two years, if the legislature had adopted this proposal last year it would not have resulted in a raise this year. But the proposal would still have been helpful.

“It would be beneficial in that sitting and prospective judges would know that they would be treated equally whenever the economy was strong enough to support raises,” he said.

In addition to the testimony, the commission reviewed a survey comparing Connecticut judges' salaries with those in other states (see web address below). Although, a 2010 National Center for State Courts survey found Connecticut general jurisdiction trial court judges' pay ranked 12th nationally, that ranking drops to 38rd when the salary is adjusted for the cost of living.

The commissioners believe that reliable, regular increases for judges will help Connecticut attract and retain talented and dedicated men and women to serve in our judiciary.

Judicial Recommendation

Salaries for judges and family support magistrates and the per diem rates paid to family support magistrate referees, senior judges, and judge trial referees should automatically increase based on the average salary increases (excluding longevity payments) for state managers. Given the severe budget crisis the state faces, the commission acknowledges that such raises are not likely in the timeframe of this commission's responsibility.

Nonetheless, the commission believes the General Assembly should enact legislation creating the link between executive branch managers and judges (and related judicial positions mentioned above) so judges, like other state employees, will have a real expectation of a future salary increase (the last increase for judges was January 1, 2007).

All 10 commission members present at the January 13, 2011 meeting unanimously approved this recommendation.

Attachments

1. Testimony of Judge Barbara M. Quinn, chief court administrator

2. Testimony of Judge Theodore R. Tyma, President of the Connecticut Judges Association

Links

“Survey of Judicial Salaries” (2010), conducted by the National Center for State Courts: http://contentdm.ncsconline.org/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/judicial&CISOPTR=317, also see NCSC main webpage: www.ncsc.org.

MINORITY REPORT REGARDING LEGISLATIVE PAY

At the January 13, 2011 meeting Commission member Justin Bernier suggested the Commission consider a motion recommending the legislature vote to reduce its own pay and that of all other state elected officials by 10%. The suggestion was not endorsed by the other members but Chairman Rome agreed that Commissioner Bernier could submit a minority report to be included in the Commission's report to the legislature.

Submitted by Justin Bernier

The Commission on Compensation of Elected State Officers and Judges recommends no change in the compensation of Connecticut officials in its 2011 report.

I diverge from this recommendation and instead propose a 10% reduction in pay for all elected state officers.

The State of Connecticut's elected officers have a unique opportunity to lead by example during this budget crisis. By accepting a reduction in pay, these officials can take a step toward passing a sustainable budget for Connecticut while demonstrating shared sacrifice with its citizens.

The Commission is guided by seven main objectives. My recommendation of a 10% pay-cut for elected officers is primarily based on objective seven, which calls on the Commission to recommend compensation levels appropriate to the state's financial resources. Other objectives would also support a reduction in compensation for these officials.

The State of Connecticut's budget deficit is the largest in the country on a per capita basis. The governor has stated that Connecticut's annual budget deficit is $3.5 billion for 2011. He expects the 2012 budget deficit to be even larger. There is no easy solution to the deficit.

Cutting the salaries of elected state officers by 10% would lower the budget deficit by a modest but important amount. This would help Connecticut's officials pursue deficit reduction with more credibility and perhaps greater support from a public that is experiencing falling income.

The U.S. Government reports that Connecticut is dead last in income growth among all 50 states. Connecticut's personal income growth -- the amount all residents earned -- fell more than twice as fast as the nation as a whole in the third quarter of 2010. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this was the worst performance in the nation.1 Falling income growth will likely reduce Connecticut's tax revenue and deepen the budget deficit.

Connecticut faces a historic budget deficit that will require significant spending reductions, tax increases, or a combination of the two. Connecticut's citizens will bear the brunt of these decisions.

A pay-cut of 10% is reasonable for Connecticut's elected officers. By reducing their compensation levels, Connecticut's elected officers could take a step toward passing a sustainable budget for the state while demonstrating shared sacrifice with the citizens.

BACKGROUND

Judicial Salaries

The current salaries for judges were established in Public Act 04-2, May Special Session. The act increased salaries of judges and family support magistrates by 5.5% on each of the following dates: January 1, 2005, January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2007. The chart below displays the effect of these increases.

Position

Prior Law

Under Public Act 04-2, MSS

As of 4/1/02

As of 1/1/05

As of 1/1/06

As of 1/1/07

$149,582

$157,809

$166,489

$175,645

Chief Court Administrator*

143,738

151,644

159,984

168,783

Supreme Court Associate Justice

138,404

146,016

154,047

162,520

Appellate Court Chief Judge

136,873

144,401

152,343

160,722

Appellate Court Judge

129,988

137,137

144,680

152,637

Deputy Chief Court Administrator**

127,617

134,636

142,041

149,853

Superior Court Judge

125,000

131,875

139,128

146,780

Chief Family Support Magistrate

108,821

114,806

121,120

127,782

Family Support Magistrate

103,569

109,265

115,275

121,615

* The chief court administrator earns this salary if he or she is a judge of the Supreme, Appellate, or Superior Court.

** The deputy chief court administrator earns this salary if he or she is a Superior Court judge.

The law's provisions result in salary increases for other officials whose salaries are tied to those of judges. The salaries of workers' compensation commissioners vary depending on experience and are tied to those of Superior Court judges. The salaries of probate court judges are capped at 75% of a Superior Court judge's salary.

PA 04-2, May Special Session also increased the per diem fees paid to judge trial referees from $200 to $211 and to family support referees from $180 to $190.

JM:ts 2011-R-0100

1 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, 17 December 2010, http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/spi/2010/pdf/spi1210.pdf.