By Paul Hughes, Republican American
HARTFORD - Chagrined Republican senators are all belatedly volunteering to take pay cuts because of what Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, called bum advice.
No Senate Republican signed up earlier because top legislative staff had advised a newly elected GOP senator in December that lawmakers didn't have that option.
The Republican-American's report last week that 14 legislators have taken voluntary pay cuts since January surprised McKinney and his caucus.
Rep. William A. Hamzy, R-Plymouth, was the only Republican on the list. In January, Hamzy volunteered to take a 5 percent cut in his $34,446-a-year salary as a deputy minority leader. He previously requested a 5.7 percent reduction from 2003 through 2006.
Since last week, all 13 Republican senators and three more House Republicans have joined Hamzy, including House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. Cafero said last week that a reporter's question about why other Republicans hadn't volunteered for pay cuts was unfair.
First-term Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, quietly inquired in December about forgoing his $30,403-a-year salary as a ranking committee member.
"I figured it would be a really easy thing to do," he said.
However, he said representatives from the Office of Legislative Management privately told him twice in conversations that wasn't possible. The office is the administrative arm of the legislative branch.
Frantz said he also asked the Office of Legislative Research whether legislators could refuse or return their salaries.
In a Dec. 16 memo, the research office's executive director advised Frantz of a 1975 ruling that blocked Gov. Ella T. Grasso from declining a $7,000 raise. Back then, state auditors of public accounts concluded the newly elected Grasso couldn't reduce her own pay or even ask the legislature to lower her salary.
A determined Grasso circumvented the rule by returning the $7,000 as a gift to the state. The Dec. 16 memo said state law allows the state treasurer to accept gifts to the state. Grasso accepted her full salary the following year.
McKinney said no Senate Republican previously volunteered for a pay cut because the caucus relied on the advice that Frantz had received.
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