Millions of dollars in longevity bonuses are scheduled for distribution to state employees this week. Almost 30, 000 state employees who have worked for the state for more than a decade will each be rewarded with a “longevity” bonus in their paycheck.
An estimated $12.2 million will go to 26,553 union employees, and about $6.2 million will go to 3,236 non-union employees and political appointees. The average payment for union employees is about $458 and the average payment for non-union employees is about $1,913, according to information provided by the state comptroller’s office.
With a growing budget deficit of around $168 million, these bonus payments are unaffordable at a time like this. Twice a year the state pays longevity payments to employees who worked for at least 10 years in the state government. Longevity bonus payments are determined by state statute.
I along with legislative Republicans have proposed legislation to eliminate the service time bonuses for non-union employees which would save the state close to $18 million. Also we have put forward bills to delay payments for all eligible employees during our current budget crisis. Unfortunately, bonuses for unionized employees were included in collective bargaining and preserved during the renegotiated concession agreement between the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) and the Governor.
Regrettably, the longevity bonuses were preserved for all current state employees as part of SEBAC agreement that same agreement promised $180 million in savings from a so-called state employee suggestion box which has yielded zero savings as of today. Looks like the taxpayers again get stuck footing the bill.
In 2010, the bonuses cost the state of Connecticut nearly $43 million for thousands of employees, according to reports. The highest bonus reported was more than $24,000 for the CSU chancellor. Union bonuses were capped at just over $1,000 while non-union bonuses reached a maximum of $24,000 based on salary and service time.
We did achieve a small level of a fiscal victory last year when we ended the practice of longevity payments for any state employee hired on or after July 1, 2011.
Take into account the state passed the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history just last year. Also it has been reported that the State Treasurer is borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars just to cover basic operating expenses and critical programs such as education and social services are being eyed for cuts.
Non-profits and small businesses alike are struggling in this economy. Here we are with the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars in deficit and handing out thousands in bonuses. In some cases they run in the tens of thousands of dollars. We simply cannot afford to pay big bonuses at a time like this.
Targeting these payments should be part of any budget solution lawmakers consider must before the legislative session ends next month.
If you would like to comment on this column or other issues of concern to you please do so by contacting my office at 1-800-842-1423 or visiting my website www.reppiscopo.com. I would love to hear from you.