Gov. Malloy: Legislature should take on longevity pay

Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy wants the General Assembly to tackle longevity payments – the bonuses paid union and non-union state workers who have been on the job for at least ten years.

But he in a brief statement today was unclear about what exactly he expects legislators to do.

The bonuses are issued each April and October to around 30,000 workers. Data for the upcoming payments, contained in April 22 paychecks, will not be available until a few days prior, according to the comptroller’s office. Last year’s bonuses cost the state $19.1 million in April and over $39 million for the entire year. 

The benefit has existed in statute since the 1960s. Payments to unionized workers have been subject to collective bargaining since the 1970s.

Malloy, who inherited a $3 billion-plus deficit when he took office in January, is seeking $2 billion in concessions from state unions.

Although the administration has declined to talk too many specifics, the governor signaled longevity pay was on the table back in January when he eliminated the bonuses for non-union senior staff.

Malloy’s latest criticism of longevity payments came today in response to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney’s, R-Fairfield, call for legislative action to eliminate the bonuses from statute beginning in October.

“Connecticut should not be burdening families and businesses to cover this excess,” McKinney said in a statement.

I forwarded McKinney’s press release to Malloy’s office and here’s what they e-mailed back:

“I have been critical of longevity payments for some time now.  They are a luxury the state cannot afford. I think the legislature should take up the issue and send me a bill.”

The General Assembly actually wrestled with longevity pay at this time last year after our newspapers shed a spotlight on the practice that March. Specifically legislators considered cancelling $16 million worth of non-union payments scheduled for April 2010, October 2010 and the upcoming April 22 bonuses as part of a deficit mitigation package. You can read more about that effort, and why it was shot down for legal and other reasons, here.

Here’s what then-candidate Malloy had to say:

“Longevity payments for lower wage employees have always been viewed as a way to reward hard work, perseverance and loyalty.  Those are qualities we should continue to foster in state government if we want to improve efficiencies and productivity. The issue gets distorted when talking about higher wage employees, especially given the state’s unprecedented budget problems. That’s why we need to have a discussion of how the program needs to change.  Those conversations might include scaling back payments, instituting a cap on the program, or considering whether or not Connecticut can afford to extend the program to future state employees.”

Brian Lockhart