Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT – As part of his budget adjustments Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont will move the Connecticut State Retirement Authority into the Office of the State Comptroller.

The quasi-public agency created in 2016 recently parted ways with its executive director and only paid employee, Mary Fay, who called board members “unprofessional” for their decision to abruptly end her employment.

The board ran out of operating funds to pay her $175,000 salary after only one year.

Lamont’s budget will include $75,000 for a new position to provide “clerical support” inside the Office of State Comptroller. The person hired will help Connecticut look at a multi-state or regional approach to providing a payroll-deducted retirement savings for those who want it.

John Erlingheuser, advocacy director at AARP, said his organization supports finding “whatever option brings us to the point of a payroll deduction.”

The state is currently contemplating using Oregon’s program, OregonSaves, that was launched in July 2017 as the first of its kind in the country. Since then, California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Maryland have approved similar programs.

The program collects retirement savings contributions from employees at small companies that don’t offer them. So far, 4,300 companies have registered with OregonSaves to help their employees deposit money into an IRA.

There are an estimated 600,000 private-sector workers in Connecticut who lack access to a retirement savings plan through their workplace. And, according to AARP, employees are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they can do so through a payroll deduction at work.

Erlingheuser said the size of Connecticut’s program would be similar to Oregon’s. He said in Oregon there are 800,000 workers with no access to a retirement program through their employer.

“The model is there,” Erlingheuser said.

Like the Affordable Care Act, states had to choose to operate their own exchange, join the federal one, or partner with another state.

Erlingheuser said the AARP is already working with small businesses interested in signing up for Connecticut’s program.

He applauded the Lamont administration for its work on making sure the program continued.

“It’s a good opportunity for a restart,” he said. “I think we’re in good shape.”

The proposed legislation from the Lamont administration will also make State Comptroller Kevin Lembo the chair of the 15-member board that oversees the program. Lembo and State Treasurer Shawn Wooden are already members.

“I look forward to working with my fellow CRSA board members and the administration to deliver on a promise to more than 600,000 Connecticut workers who have no access to a workplace-based retirement savings option,” Lembo said Tuesday. “No Connecticut person – particularly any person who spent a lifetime working to survive and support their family – should be forced to retire financially unequipped to afford basic means of living. For the sake of Connecticut workers and our entire state economy, seeing this plan through in the most efficient and strategic way possible is a top priority for me.”