11:04 AM EST, February 20, 2011
Listening to the Governor and some elected officials, one of Connecticut’s most significant problems are the excessive pensions state employees receive. Governor Malloy has called for a billion dollars in state employee concessions and one of the items he has highlighted is the need to reform Connecticut’s state employee pension program. Other politicians and newspaper editorials have hailed his tough talk.
So let’s explore some of these issues – starting with state employee pensions.
Today’s question is - What is the Average Annual State Employee Pension?
The correct answer is (b). Of the nearly 40,000 retired state employees who collect pensions, the average pension amount is $31,900 per year.
Let’s be clear, that is not to say that there aren’t individual state employees who were able to “game” the system prior to retiring and now receive larger than average pensions, but the truth is the average retired state employee receives a state pension of about $32,000 a year.
Average Connecticut State Pensions by Department or Agency
State Police $48,500
DOC – Central Office $39,732
Environmental Protection $38,700
Criminal Justice $38,000
Labor Department $36,300
Mental Health $35,700
Revenue Services $32,100
Social Services $30,500
Vo-Tech High Schools $29,200
Mental Retardation $27,600
Motor Vehicle $25,400
Public Safety – Civilian $25,200
The real problem is not the number of retirees or the average pension employees receive but the fact that elected officials failed to set aside the funds necessary to pay state pensions and now the bill is coming due.
Imagine that instead of paying your full mortgage you only paid the bank 40% of what you owed each month and then at the end of 5 years you received a bill from the bank that you need to pay all the back money you owed.
Sure you would be upset about getting the bill, who wouldn’t? But would you be angry at the bank? Would you be angry at the house? Would you be angry at the real estate agent who sold you the house?
Or would you admit that you really should have paid the amount due each month so that this day wouldn’t come.
Listening to some of Connecticut’s elected officials – it is the state employees who are at fault for doing the work and getting the pensions or it is the fault of the employee unions for negotiating the contracts.
Of course, when one examines what occurred, the fault lies squarely with the elected officials who failed to make the required payments and now stand around shocked and dismayed that the bill has arrived.
Over the last three years, Governor Rell and the Legislature failed to make nearly $300 million in required payments to the pension fund and that was after two decades of underfunding the state pension fund (along with the huge losses in the value of the fund due to the stock market decline of the last few years).
The Governor and Legislators can call for pension reform all they want, they can seek to punish the state employees who have followed the rules and earned their pensions or they can stand up and take responsibility for their actions, pay the bills that need to be paid and discuss whether changes, if any, are appropriate moving forward.