An estimated 200 retired teachers didn’t like some of the answers they received Tuesday from one of the two gubernatorial candidates.
There were audible groans from the audience Tuesday at the Aqua Turf Club when Republican Tom Foley talked about the staffing levels at the Teachers’ Retirement Board.
Asked what he would do about boosting staffing and other recent funding burdens Foley reflected back on his experience in the private sector.
“In the private sector 27 people would produce a lot more work than 32 people did 10 years ago,” Foley said.
The Teachers’ Retirement Board currently has 23 employees.
“I’m professionally trained in management,” Foley said. “ I understand how organizations work.”
Asked about the obvious opposition to his comments, Foley said he understands why they think having more people may solve the problem and make government more responsive, but he simply disagrees.
“I’ll show them,” he said.
Teachers were also interested the state’s commitment to fund the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. Last year the state decided not to contribute to the fund as it struggled to balance its budget. By 2014 or 2015 the fund will be bankrupt.
Since 1996 the state has helped fund about one-third of the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund, while the rest of the contributions come from active and retired teachers.
Foley prefaced his answer by talking about how he’s been traveling the state for the past year and a half talking about “our irresponsible legislature.”
“What’s happened is we’ve spent way too much money and invested too little,” Foley said.
“In the business world you count differently for investing and spending,” he said adding that funding the insurance fund would be considered an investment. “So what we need to do in Connecticut is get control of the out-of-control spending going on in Hartford.”
But retired teachers like Cathy D’Agostino, co-chairwoman of the Association of Retired Teachers in Connecticut, wasn’t quite sure Foley answered the question, even though she gave him credit for trying to understand the issue.
Foley’s Democratic opponent, Dan Malloy, told the retired teachers that “we owe a very special obligation to you because a vast majority of you don’t collect Social Security.”
“I want you to know that I absolutely reject the idea that we stop making mandatory payments to funds,“ Malloy said. “In fact I’m going to make sure that never happens again.”
He said he will force the state legislature to make payments to funds like these by moving to Generally Accepted Accounting Practices.
As far as the staffing levels of the Teachers’ Retirement Board is concerned, Malloy said he doesn’t know if he has an answer just yet.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you absent doing some research what the right balance of personnel is,” Malloy said. “This is what I will promise you. We will take a look at the operations of TRB and we will make adjustments in technology and or personnel to allow that board to operate properly and answer the questions members have in a timely manner.”
“Listen, a bunch of teachers here: I‘m going to do my homework,” Malloy said.
Sandra Bove, co-chairwoman of the Association of Retired Teachers in Connecticut, said she felt Malloy “zeroed in on specifics in answering his questions.”
She said she was bothered by Foley’s answers about taxes and how maybe people would be willing to pay a little bit more to live in a state with Connecticut’s quality of life. She said she doesn’t think she should have to tighten her belt just to live here.
Both candidates were given the questions from the Association of Retired Teachers in advance of Tuesday morning’s forum. The association represents 10,000 retired teachers in the state.
Foley and Malloy met again Tuesday afternoon at a Fairfield University debate. The debate will re-air tonight at 7 p.m. on WFSB, CPTV, and WNPR. We will upload an archived as soon as possible.