(Updated 6:49 p.m.) This week, 29,789 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.
The non-union employees topping the list include James Blake, an executive vice president at Southern Connecticut State University, who will take home an additional $6,768.99; Michael Pernal, an executive vice provost at Eastern Connecticut State University, will bring home $6,685.03; D’Ann Mazzocca, head of Legislative Management, will receive $6,641.92, and; Walter Bernstein, the vice president of student affairs at Western Connecticut State University, will receive $6,122.65.
Union employees bringing home the biggest bonuses include Carol Williams, Walter Zincavage, Kimberly Chagnon, and Cesarina Thompson. All four work in the Connecticut State University system and will be paid an additional $4,046 this week.
Republican lawmakers have been vocal about eliminating the bi-annual payments made every April and October and which are not based on merit.
“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 wrote, arguing that Malloy can use his executive authority to limit payments to non-union employees.
Malloy already has signed an executive order eliminating them for future employees and freezing them for current employees.
McKinney and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Monday that the legislature should seek to eliminate the payments themselves.
They both acknowledge that they can’t eliminate the union longevity pay because it is negotiated by the governor. However, they can eliminate the payments for non-union employees.
McKinney said that since longevity was created by statute 45 years ago, it can be taken away by statute.
“We’re in the minority so there’s little we can do, but every chance they’ve had to do it, they’ve ignored,” Cafero said, referring to the legislature’s Democratic majority.
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the Senate voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate these payments last year, but it was never taken up by the House.
Looney said Democratic lawmakers will again talk to the governor about eliminating the payments, but added that the ones for the non-union employees collectively costs a lot less than the payment to the union employees.
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said Monday that thanks to the governor’s efforts, no state employee hired on or after July 1, 2011, will receive a longevity payment. And those who currently get longevity payments have had them frozen at last year’s level.
“Over time, those two moves will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” Occhiogrosso said. “If it were up to the governor, they’d be eliminated for everyone, but he doesn’t get to make that decision.”
Occhiogrosso pointed out that federal law prevents the governor from unilaterally eliminating longevity payments for state employees who already receive them because they can claim a property right to the payments.
Last year, many union employees forfeited their October longevity payments as part of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement, but the payments still went out to non-union employees and some union employees.