The state’s decision to hand out an estimated $7 million in longevity payments to about 3,600 non-union state employees is like a hot potato that no one seems to wants to touch.

The payments which are received by state employees on their 10th anniversary of state service are made twice a year regardless of performance. The payments used to increase on the 15, 20, and 25th anniversary, but an executive order signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in January capped them at last year‘s level and eliminated them for any of his new appointees who previously didn’t work for the state.

The state was able to cap the payments for some unionized state employees and eliminate them for new unionized state employees, while others will forfeit theirs through the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement adopted in August, but has made no progress in eliminating them for non-union state employees.

There had been language to make the payments comparable to what was in the SEBAC agreement—which would have essentially eliminated them—but that language mysteriously disappeared in Section 11(c) of the final draft of the bill passed by the General Assembly in special session June 30. There was language in the May budget bill to eliminate these bonuses, which is why so many lawmakers were surprised to learned they will still be given out in mid-October.

“I would support it being taken on legislatively,“ Malloy said Friday. “I think there are some nuances which are sometimes hard to explain, but I’ll take a start and probably be blamed for it.”

He said the longevity bonuses for non-union employees were substantially higher than ones given to union employees because the state for many years wasn‘t adjusting the salary base for managers, who sometimes were making less than the people who worked for them.

However, having said “I don’t believe we should have longevity payments,” Malloy said.

While that was music to lawmakers’ ears, some already believe Malloy has the power to eliminate them without legislative approval.

“I am calling on you to exercise your executive authority and stop this practice,” Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, said in a letter he wrote Malloy Friday. “While you have repeatedly stated you would support legislation reforming the longevity system, the reality is that you already have the authority to make significant reductions in longevity pay.”

McKinney argued Malloy has the authority to limit the payments of some non-union employees to $75 to $300. There are exceptions to the rule, such as judges and state attorney’s, whose contracts require the longevity payment to be a percentage of their salaries.

Malloy’s administration has expressed concern that eliminating the payments completely would be cause for legal action.

“I strongly disagree with the proposition that non-union employees have some kind of constitutionally protected vested property right to longevity payments,” McKinney wrote.

House Speaker Chris Donovan said Friday that if the governor thinks they should be eliminated then he should come talk to lawmakers about it.

Union officials say the decision to hand out the biannual longevity payments creates an inequity and is not consistent with Malloy’s message of shared sacrifice or with language in the SEBAC agreement.

“‘Shared sacrifice’ should mean that state managers are treated the same as the unionized workforce,” Bob Rinker, executive director of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, said. “The members of our unions just agreed to concessions believing that that the budget would not be balanced on their backs alone. The issue is one of fundamental fairness, and the managers’ longevity bonuses should reflect the same sacrifice as the front-line workers’ reduced payments.”

As part of the SEBAC agreement the state and the union capped longevity bonuses for some unionized workers and eliminated them for new ones, while still others will forfeit theirs this October as part of the agreement. Those union bonuses amounted to $13.25 million in April. Most of the union bonuses, unlike the ones for managers, were under $1,000.

And even though Malloy eliminated the longevity bonuses for his new appointees many in his administration will still be receiving them.

According to information released in April, the last time the bonuses were handed out, Banking Commissioner Howard Pitkin will receive $4,800, Correction Department Commissioner Leo Arnone will receive $5,600, and Office of Policy and Management Undersecretary Mark Ojakian will receive $4,800.

Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services, said Friday that October’s payments are still being verified and no information was available.