THE “STATE” OF CONNECTICUT

By: Stephen West

Here at Crossroads Consulting, we care about all the aspects of what’s going on in the State of Connecticut and how it affects your employment or hiring decisions. Well there are more factors that go into it than just resumes, cover letters and interview techniques.

In doing some internet reading, we came across this amazing article that seemed so right on target. The column is from “The Day” in New London about the status of the State of Connecticut. Dick Ahles, a retired freelance columnist wrote this piece and it is so accurate. We thought we’d present it here for you, but if you want to read it in it’s original place you can read it here.

Hartford, one of the poorest cities in the nation for decades, thinks it may be time to stop allowing its employees to retire when they’re as young as 38.

True, the 38-year-old has to be burdened with making it on his own until he reaches a doddering 44 before collecting a generous pension for the next 40 years or more. This may be why you rarely hear “old age” as a modifier for the word pensions these days.

Connecticut’s capital city should have noticed there was a problem a few years ago when a city manager retired at the age of 42 with a $72,000 annual pension, computed on her 19 years of employment, including college internships. The manager, sometimes criticized for her managing, had been the subject of an oft-quoted appraisal by a councilwoman, who defended a raise for the manager by noting, “She didn’t do a horrible job.”

Hartford is far from alone in granting outrageously generous and often premature pensions – and benefits – to its employees. It just provides a timely example of a terrible problem that has to be solved if cities and states are ever to regain solvency.

Malloy vs. the fiscal crisis

Another newly elected chief executive facing a fiscal crisis fueled in part by fantasy-land employee pensions and benefits is, of course, the governor-elect of Connecticut, Dan Malloy.

Malloy has plenty of company in state houses and town halls across the country, including some not far from here. David Brooks wrote in The New York Times the other day that benefits packages for New Jersey’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company and “New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before 50.”

He calls it a case of government’s “strangling on their own self indulgence” and it’s undeniably so, a national scandal.

An analysis by Ted Mann of The Day at the end of the year found only four states drowning more deeply in pension-fund deficits than Connecticut. The state’s pension and benefit obligation over the next 30 years “for which no funds have been set aside, now totals some $50.4 billion,” Mann wrote.

Connecticut’s state employees did make some contract concessions during the last deficit crisis but they’re now insisting they gave at the office once and shouldn’t be the source of major concessions this time around.

But Connecticut, like other states and cities, cannot maintain sweetheart deals made often, but not always, by Democrats looking for the continued support of their most loyal voting bloc, unionized public employees.

Public employees cannot continue to demand health care and other benefits not enjoyed by workers in the private sector for upwards of 30 years. Malloy and the Democratic legislature have to protect the state’s future even if they are stuck with contracts that will remain in force for another seven years or so.

Private sector sets example

Union negotiators are notorious for bargaining for generations yet unborn because that’s where the money is, in the form of future dues payers. It is probably not only necessary, but also ethical, to grandfather current employees into the security they negotiated, but future employees must be treated like their private-sector counterparts. In that spirit, the governor-elect should also rethink his plan to mandate paid sick leave, even for part-time workers, a well-intentioned idea fraught with the potential for abuse.

It was disheartening to hear Christopher Donovan, the Democratic speaker of the House, repeating the mantra about public employee unions having made their concessions during a recent TV interview. Nor did he inspire much confidence with his thoughts on dealing with the deficit – possible tax increases, but only on the rich – and a conversation about bringing back highway tolls. Who’s he kidding?

The governor-elect has indicated he appreciates the seriousness of the deficit even though he’s reminded state employees their future might have been worse if Republican Tom Foley had won and kept his promise to replace pensions with 401ks.

But Malloy has only promised state employees he won’t achieve economies on the backs of the most vulnerable, who are hard to find in their circle.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury.

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