House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, didn’t mince words when he said his caucus wouldn’t support giving state employees an opportunity to boost their pension and retire.
“It may provide some savings in the short term, but it is a disaster for our long-term pension obligations,” Sharkey said after emerging from a two hour, closed-door caucus with about 50 of his members.
A proposal to give state employees who are already eligible to retire an additional three years to their pension was an idea first floated by Republican leaders and embraced by the Senate Democratic caucus Thursday.
Sharkey said he continues to be astounded that Republicans, who want to talk about long-term fiscal stability, would offer a retirement incentive program, also known as a RIP.
“Every analyst will tell you that a retirement incentive program does just the opposite,” Sharkey said at a press conference outside the House chamber Friday.
A report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found the early retirement deals offered by former Govs. John G. Rowland and M. Jodi Rell added nearly $2 billion to the state’s current unfunded pension liability.
Sharkey said he was “surprised” and “a bit disappointed” that his colleagues in the Senate decided to change their mind and use the RIP as part of their proposal to close an estimated $350 to $370 million budget gap.
“The big divide between the House and the Senate is on the RIP,” Sharkey said. “That is the divide.”
The House caucus also walked back a proposal to suspend Connecticut’s landmark public campaign financing system to save $11.7 million. However, Sharkey said that while they agreed to keep the Citizens Election Program, they didn’t find other cuts to offset the $11.7 million price tag yet.
Sharkey said there are going to be compromises as the negotiations continue, “so to bridge those gaps and plug those holes is part of what we want to do over the course of the next week with the other parties at the negotiating table.”
Negotiations between all four caucuses and the governor’s office are expected to continue on Monday and conclude by Dec. 4. A special session would presumably be scheduled later in December.
Senate President Martin Looney said he is still looking forward to a compromise.
“Right now, our caucuses are in somewhat different places on how best to balance Connecticut’s budget,” Looney said. “I am committed to working through the bipartisan process not only with our friends in the House, but with Governor Malloy and our Republicans colleagues as well.”
Earlier in the day Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said there seems to be agreement on the tax changes so at the very least he suggested they convene a special session to pass those changes.
“There seems to be universal support for the tax changes that I recommended and I think at the very least we should get those things done together as well,” Malloy said.
Malloy said they’re not at the point of having a special session yet because they don’t have an agreement on the budget.
Sharkey said he wasn’t in favor of voting on this deficit mitigation package in pieces.
“We want to do this once,” Sharkey said. “We want to get it right. Get our current year budget back in balance and not have to revisit that issue.”