Last Friday Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked legislative leaders to help her come up with an early retirement incentive plan for about 3,000 state employees over age 55 before April 1. She estimated the plan would save the state $22 million this fiscal year.
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said in a phone interview Thursday that she still has more questions than answers about the plan, and wondered if it could even be done in such a short time. Rell has called for the Democratically-controlled legislature to vote on the plan next Wednesday.
One of Wyman’s biggest concerns is having enough of her own staff around to process the retirements. She said at least three of the 12 employees in her office handling retirements are eligible for retirement themselves. In 2003—the last time an early retirement package offered—Wyman said her staff processed 4,500 applications in three months.
Wyman said she has only four people in her office available to counsel the nearly 3,000 eligible employees.
In addition, Wyman said she’s concerned about the number of positions that will be refilled and if there will be certain state employees exempt from the plan.
Chris Cooper, Rell’s spokesman, said the issue is not the number of staff in the Comptroller’s office, it’s a matter of their procedures being outdated.
“The governor wants the legislature to adopt a deficit mitigation plan including a retirement incentive plan because it provides $22 million in savings this fiscal year, and larger savings subsequent years,” Cooper said Friday.
Earlier this week legislative leaders were reluctant to get involved with a retirement incentive package because it has been part of the negotiations between the administration and the state employee unions.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said that it’s not the legislature’s job to negotiate with the unions. “She needs to put a proposal together and present it to us,” he said, referring to the governor.
Rell has asked representatives from all four caucuses to meet with her and the Office of Policy and Management to come up with an early retirement package. Donovan said he will not be sending anyone from the House Democratic caucus to the meeting Wednesday morning.
“The Speaker is right—the retirement incentive should be addressed in SEBAC leaders’ ongoing discussions with the Governor’s representatives,” Matt O’Connor, spokesman with CSEA/SEIU, said in a statement Wednesday. “Asking the legislature to circumvent the process is not helpful to reaching a mutual agreement with our unions’ members on a comprehensive solution—which is what the Governor should be focused on right now.”