christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 8 p.m.) In 2018, most of the $2 billion Connecticut paid state retirees stayed in Connecticut, but at least $184.5 million went to 4,800 retirees who now live in Florida.

That’s according to a new website launched by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

The new “OpenPension” website is an expansion of Lembo’s previous attempts at making data about the state budget, including spending and revenues, accessible to the public through a searchable website.

OpenPension provides up-to-date compensation data on state retirees, including readily organized data about average pensions and how many retirees live in each state.

The average pension in 2018 was $38,212 per year, but some former pensioners mostly from the University of Connecticut Health Center received six-figure pensions.

Dr. Jack Blechner, former professor at UConn Health Center and former chairman, department of obstetrics and gynecology received $322,674, John Veiga, chairman of management department at UConn school of business received $320,497, Dr. Edward Blanchette, former Department of Correction clinical director, received $262,854, former UConn president Harry Hartley received $245,452, and former UConn Health Center Medical School Dean Eugene Sigman received $244,007.

Aside from Florida, top states for Connecticut retirees included Massachusetts, North Carolina, and South Carolina. There are 39,747 retirees who still reside in Connecticut and received about $1.53 billion last year.

“A careful review and analysis of the data on Open Pensions demonstrates what we have said all along,” Daniel Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said. “Our current pension plan has benefits that are moderate and well-funded.”

Livingston said there are some who claim state employees’ pensions are too rich and there are proposals to ask retirees to give up some of what they’ve earned, but “the average bargaining unit employee receiving a normal retirement from one of our current pension tiers—Tier 2 or Tier 2A, receives a pension of $18,600 a year. Corporate conservative front groups and their legislative apologists who claim these pensions are inflated or unfair are either misinformed or — put gently — truth challenged.”

Until now, online state pension data in Connecticut was updated only once annually. OpenPension will be updated each pay cycle and provide the most current data available. It will also allow more comprehensive search options to dig deeper into the data, as well as the ability to export all of the raw data to aid in external analysis.

“OpenPension is an important addition to the OpenConnecticut portal that builds on my commitment to make Connecticut’s government the most open and transparent in the nation,” Lembo said. “As Connecticut faces persistent immediate and long-term financial challenges, OpenConnecticut will continue to expand and serve as a source for policy makers and the public so that we can have informed debates in finding solutions.”

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano applauded the website and Lembo.

“I applaud the efforts of Comptroller Lembo to bring more transparency to state government,” Fasano said. “The public should have tools to explore and understand government spending. The new OpenPension database is a valuable resource to shine the light on state government so we can have an honest discussion about the issues and costs we face as a state.”