HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy upset the teaching community in 2012 when he said all they had to do to achieve tenure was show up.
On Wednesday, he found himself again at odds with teachers again when he said he didn’t believe they would mind contributing two percent more to their pensions.
He said the Republican budget, which he plans to veto, fails by violating the underlying trust of teachers and depositing the additional two percent contribution into the general fund, instead of the teacher retirement account.
“That’s a problem in and of itself,” Malloy said.
Malloy said they haven’t had a discussion about increasing teachers’ contribution, “but I haven’t heard from teachers that they’re opposed to it. I haven’t heard from their association that they’re opposed to having their teacher’s pay an additional two percent.”
He added: “I wouldn’t take it off the table because apparently teachers support it.”
The Connecticut Education Association, which is the largest teacher’s union in the state, said that’s absolutely not true.
“Let me be absolutely clear, Governor Malloy — Connecticut teachers are against the teacher tax,” CEA President Sheila Cohen said. “The thousands of teachers who already contacted your office have said that it’s wrong to balance the budget on the backs of teachers. For you to say, ‘I wouldn’t take it off the table,’ indicates that you are considering leading with a tax on teachers in order to balance the budget. You are unfortunately disrespecting the dedicated teachers who spend their lives educating, supporting, and nurturing our children.”
Cohen said the association opposed a similar teacher tax when it was proposed briefly by House Democrats at the end of June.
Teachers have said they’re opposed to the tax in any future budget proposal too. On Tuesday in Norwalk, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers rallied against the tax with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff.
“It is a secret tax. It singles out teachers, without the courage to lay it on the line and identify it, but just quietly hiding. Many are questioning its existence and saying it isn’t there, but it is,” Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon said at the rally.
Cohen also said the association opposes Malloy’s proposed shift of teacher retirement responsibility from the state to towns.
She said the proposed reduction of state responsibility will unfairly increase local property taxes and result in further cuts to school budgets.
“Connecticut teachers are in favor of a fair budget that works for all of us and invests in public education. In order for our children to have the opportunities they deserve and to fulfill their potential, we must make their education a top priority,” Cohen said.
Last week teacher’s unions attended a rally where they called on Malloy to veto the Republican budget. They held signs that said: “Tax the rich not teachers.”
The sign was in reference to the Republican budget proposal that increases the amount teachers must contribute to their pensions by two percent over two years. However, under their plan that money isn’t immediately deposited into the teachers’ retirement account. The Republican budget places it in the general fund, which is why the Connecticut Education Association is calling it a tax on teachers.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said it’s not their intention to keep the money in the general fund, but they had to put it somewhere before the actuaries are able to do an evaluation and recalculate the state’s contribution to the fund.
Malloy said last week that the Republican budget deposits the money in the general fund and “I think that’s illegal and would violate the trust requirement under law and probably would put the whole teacher pension fund in jeopardy.”
Teachers currently contribute six percent of their salaries to the fund. Fasano said the national average is closer to 10 percent, so Connecticut is behind.
Connecticut currently contributes about $1 billion annually to the Teachers’ Retirement System. That contribution could top $6.2 billion by 2032 due to years of underfunding. Connecticut didn’t start setting aside money to pay for teachers until around 1982.