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More than 1,600 retired Connecticut state employees receive six-figure pensions

More than 1,600 retired state employees now have pensions over $100,000 per year, totaling an annual payout of $191.9 million, according to numbers provided by the State Comptroller’s Office.

The 1,609 retirees receiving six-figure pensions represents an increase of more than 200 individuals since the previous count by the Hartford Courant, which placed the figure at “nearly 1,400.”

In 2016, the number of six figure pensions was 1,030 and in 2009 there were only 110.

Former UConn Health Center professor and obstetrician Dr. Jack Blechner was the highest paid retiree, receiving $332,354 in 2019, according to the data. That figure represents a $14,449 per year increase since 2017. 

John F. Veiga, former UConn professor and chairman of management at UConn School of Business, had the second-highest pension, listed at $330,377 per year, an increase of $13,768 from his 2017 pension.

The figures provided by the Comptroller’s Office differ slightly in some instances from those shown on the state’s Open Pension website – which listed Veiga as receiving $349,443 – because the website includes all payments rather than just annual pension payments, according to the comptroller’s office. 

Retirees receive cost of living increases every year that range from a minimum of 2 percent to a maximum of 7.5 percent.

The annual COLA increase will add at least another $3.8 million to the cost of those six-figure pensions and $42.2 million to the total annual pension payout, listed as $2.1 billion in 2019.

The 2017 SEBAC Agreement negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy changed the COLA for individuals retiring after July of 2022, tying the annual increase to the rate of inflation, but the minimum 2 percent increase will remain in place for all current retirees.

The change in COLA calculations after July 2022 has sparked concerns that Connecticut could see a wave of retirements before the cut-off date.

Also listed on the Open Pension website are large, one-time retroactive payments that represent multiple years and are not included in the list of retirees receiving annual six-figure pensions. 

These one-time payouts include a $439,323 payout to a former Department of Developmental Services worker.

Although retirees earning over $100,000 represent 2.9 percent of the 54,172 pensioners in the State Employee Retirement System, their payouts represent 9 percent of the total cost of pension payments in 2019.

According to the Comptroller’s website, the overall average pension in Connecticut is $38,936, but averages differ based on length of service, retirement tier, retirement type, whether the job was designated as hazardous duty or if it was disability pension.

For instance, the majority of 17,252 employees listed with 25 years or more of regular service are in the SERS Tier 1B system, with an average pension payout of $64,651.

Among the 13,284 individuals who took voluntary retirement with less than 25 years of service, the largest number of people are in the SERS Tier 2 retirement plan, with an average pension of $23,744.61

The vast majority of Connecticut pensioners earning six-figures were listed as having 25 years or more of regular service and the highest pensions are largely for retired University of Connecticut officials and doctors with UConn Health Center.

Connecticut has added a new Tier 4 hybrid pension system for new employees as a result of the 2017 SEBAC Agreement, but Connecticut’s State Employee Retirement System remains severely in debt, with $36 billion in unfunded liabilities as of the last actuarial report.

Connecticut’s unfunded pension liabilities are part of the state’s fixed costs, which now comprise more than 50 percent of the budget.

Annual state payments for state employee pensions and retiree healthcare are projected to rise from $1.9 billion this year to nearly $2.5 billion by 2024, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis.

Connecticut is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn and next year’s deficit is projected to have a $2.3 billion deficit.  

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(19) Comments

  1. Marlin Williams

    July 25, 2020 1:26 am

    $350,000 per year for doing nothing what a sweet deal! You go Dr Bletchner, way to stick it to the man, and the people of Ct.

  2. Debbie

    May 25, 2020 8:46 pm

    As a retired teacher in the VT system of the State, my salary was far lower than my colleagues with comparable education and experience who elected to work in a local school system.
    The state actually penalized academic teachers by not compensating them for advanced degrees.As a result my pension is far less than a public school teacher with similar experience and credentials. We were never part of the Teacher Enhancement Act. When it suited the State, we were only State Employees:not teachers.
    Please don”t generalize about State retirees having huge pensions…….mine, after 33 years of teaching in the VT system is quite a bit lower than your estimated figures of $60,000annually. I stayed in the VT system because I loved the kids and felt that my skills were appreciated by those who counted…the students.

  3. Deborah

    May 25, 2020 3:45 pm

    As a retired teacher in the VT system of the State, my salary was always far lower than that of my colleagues with comparable education and experience who elected to work in a local school system.s.
    The state actually penalized academic teachers by not compensating whose who earned advanced degrees (as local systems did)
    Of course, this is reflected in my pension as my three highest years were far lower than public school teachers.
    The State has a mess due in large part to COVID 19 and there is no easy resolution.
    For openers, all COLAS must be eliminated at least for the next 10years.

  4. Lenny

    May 13, 2020 8:56 pm

    Without all the info of the contract these workers are under would be a speculation on my part, do they pay into SS for all there years of service.Cost of living adjustment every year must be looked at.Don’t judge a contact that these people work under as they probably gave something up to have a pension later in life. As for the politician ‘s that come in and give 300k pension’s to the good old boys club , are they really union, NOT. Connecticut is not going to change until things are transparent at all spending levels of government .Then the state will say we don’t understand its business while a lot of them are leaving .Nutmeg state haha

    • Anna

      September 1, 2020 12:29 am

      Also keep in mind that State workers are taxpayers too. We pay taxes just like anyone else, yet people complain as if we don’t. And throughout my hazardous duty years, a percentage of my salary was taken out of every paycheck toward my pension. It wasn’t free.

  5. Davey

    May 7, 2020 9:10 am

    Pensions hardly exist in the free market, and there is a reason for that. Companies can’t afford them, because with those costs they can’t be competitive. Sounds like government is having the same problem. State employees are spoiled and the tax payers are suffering. It definitely can’t keep going this way. Either these State employees need to produce something that increases revenue or like the rest of Americans they don’t need pensions. Period. That’s how the rest of us live. Stop extorting tax payers!

    • Lew friedman

      May 7, 2020 11:50 am

      State of CT and those governors, members of the general assembly and university system administration has turned a blind eye to this mounting problem for decades. Only able to gain very minor tweaks with SEBAC labor unions. Musical chairs…. COVID 19 recession will bring Billion$$ in deficits in next biennial budgets, may be the virus that will bring CT into bankruptcy and force necessary restructuring that is well over due. The music may stop soon for CT. Time will tell.

    • Anna

      September 1, 2020 12:20 am

      I am so sick of people calling state workers spoiled. I would have loved for anyone making that complaint to have followed me around for a day during my nearly 28 years employed by the state. I started in my 20’s making $5 a hour bringing individuals with mental retardation on outings during the Summer. Then I worked in group homes and regional centers teaching them daily living skills. Some of these people were mildly to moderately mentally retarded, while others were severely disabled. I picked up overtime whenever I could because the pay was $10 an hour and I was living on my own. My day started at 6:00 am, bathing, brushing teeth, changing adult diapers, cleaning feces, helping with meals, cleaning up, and dealing with behavioral issues. In the group homes with higher functioning individuals, I had to often physically restrain people. I was scratched, bitten, kicked, and spit on. I was poked with a used needle that a client had put in his pocket, when I was doing his laundry. I drove a 15 passenger van without air conditioning in 90 degree weather and picked up clients at their workshops.
      I continued my schooling and was hired as a case manager at a juvenile facility. I took home piles of paperwork because I couldn’t keep up during my work day. Caseloads were huge and I was taking teenagers to court, or residential placements, going to meetings, and counseling kids. The stories of their lives kept me up at night. I earned my Master’s degree and accepted a social work position at one of the state prisons. I did overtime in other prisons as well. I counseled teenagers and adults with the hope of helping them successfully transition to the community and not return to prison. You might guess that working in a prison 5 days a week…..or more with overtime, is not the most pleasant experience. Seeing an inmate in segregation I choked on Capstun/mace whenever a situation with an unruly individual went South. Officers choked, eyes watering, coughing, while sometimes walking through overflowing toilet water if the inmate flooded his cell.
      I was verbally abused, threatened, and heard every nasty sexual comment you could think up. I would give my parting talk to a teenager as they prepared to return home, and sometimes later learn that he had been shot and killed. I still think about every young person lost to suicide or murder over the 20 years I worked in this system. I have spent plenty of my own money on DCF kids whose state voucher just didn’t cover everything they needed for the residential placement they were going to. I have worked with some of the most dedicated people you could every meet, whether a teacher, officer, social worker, direct care worker, etc…. Are there lazy state employees? Yes, I have certainly known some. They are the exception, not the rule. And that scenario exists just the same in the private sector. What I have found over the years, is that the people who complain about state workers the most, are the same people who wouldn’t last a day working in a prison….never mind 20 or 25 years. They wouldn’t last in a residential facility for kids, they wouldn’t teach, and they sure wouldn’t clean up human feces. Would you like us state employees to start complaining about your Christmas bonus, or the gym that’s in your office building that you can use on your lunch hour? Maybe you were allowed to work from home….even before COVID? Maybe you have a company car? Maybe you go out to lunch with your coworkers every day, or go for a jog on your lunch break. Maybe you have your own office….better yet, one with a window! Whatever it is, I don’t begrudge you for it. I chose my career, and believe it or not, I loved it. You chose yours. If you wanted a pension, you could have done what I did. But you probably wouldn’t last a day. I don’t know the percentage of lazy, or spoiled state workers, or the percentage of lazy or spoiled private sector workers. What I know is, I followed my passion. I was conscientious, and I worked hard. The job I accepted happened to come with a pension.

      • Delores Harris

        September 2, 2020 5:53 pm

        Anna,

        Well said!

        My daughter has worked for the State for thirteen (13) years-Hazardous Duty.

        Her sentiments and experience mirror yours, except her clientele are individuals with mental health conditions, who are involved in the criminal justice system.

        I loved, “I don’t know the percentage of lazy, or spoiled state workers, or the percentage of lazy or spoiled private sector workers. What I know is, I followed my passion. I was conscientious, and I worked hard. The job I accepted happened to come with a pension.”

        Enjoy that pension and your retirement-you’ve certainly earned it.

        Those individuals that you cared for, are better as they had you to advocate on their behalf.

        Continue to follow your passion in all that you do, and be well!

  6. Thad Stewart

    May 7, 2020 6:05 am

    The simple fact that these lawmakers are allowed to vote themselves raises is proof enough that they are out of control. These people work for the taxpayers, not the other way around. I hope that my fellow voters in this state wake up in November and finally do the right thing. Get rid of the party in office and some of the problem senators. These people work for us, and need to consult the taxpayer before stuffing their pockets with our money.

    • Raymond

      May 9, 2020 10:37 pm

      In about 1939 the State of Connecticut established pensions for the state employees. Since that date the state has not been faithful in putting in their share of the required contributions. On several occasions the Unions allowed the State to borrow from or not make payments to the payroll, pension, Healthcare, accounts. State employees fulfilled their obligations and had their contributions deducted from their pay checks. State negotiators sit across the table from the Unions and negotiate the contracts. The State knows what their obligations are when they leave the room when the contracts are agreed upon. The state has spent their portion of their contributions on other state spending to keep taxes low and get reelected. State Bond money has been spent(to buy votes from voters for Representatives and Senators) on Connecticut Towns and Cities Streetscapes, Lighting, Fencing, Bleechers, for Baseball Fields, Tennis Courts, etc. Town and City projects are a Municipal obligation, not a State problem. State Bond Money should be used for necessary state projects that involve the health and safety of Connecticut residents/visitors. Money could then be put into the payeoll,pension,Healthcare accounts. Connecticut needs a serious DEBT DIET!!!!

  7. John Feher

    May 6, 2020 4:45 pm

    We are so glad we,left CT when we did all I see here is more misery for the tax payers of CT.sad to of left but glad we did!

  8. Edward

    May 6, 2020 12:17 pm

    We are broke. Re-negotiate all retirement packages.

    • Jay

      May 6, 2020 3:29 pm

      They are all renegotiated. Do your homework before you complain.

      • James Lee Miller

        May 9, 2020 1:20 pm

        Retiring at more money than your base pay should be stopped . That doesn’t mean that you can’t earn overtime during your working career. Overtime itself is driven by staffing needs and emergency situations. For myself I did not join the State Police for money, just like I did not serve 33 years in the military, reserve and active duty, for money. 🇺🇸🇺🇸

    • Mr. Spock

      May 7, 2020 1:32 pm

      Pensions were used to attract good talent without thinking years ahead. People are living longer. The best solution is a one time payment and then end the pension. Or the system collapses and no one gets anything.

  9. Cliff Fava

    May 6, 2020 12:00 pm

    We cannot blame the recipients. Every one of us would take that money if offered to us.
    I blame our inept politicians past & present for caving in & agreeing to these incredible deals for state employees. Obviously the negotiating skill of our states government leaders is poor to non existent. The price of a vote is now evident for us all to see. in the end it is our fault for continuing to vote these folks in time & again.

  10. John Feher

    May 6, 2020 6:24 am

    What’s wrong here?

    • Ed Allen

      May 6, 2020 11:41 am

      The Reagan government started to work on reducing pay for worker bees outside of the govt. Then the GOP starts saying that civil servants make too much. The GOP will not be happy till we worker bees are dead. Worker’s pay since then has not increased even though productivity has increased.

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