Hwang criticizes state longevity bonus pay-outs

State Rep. Tony Hwang called for an end to the practice of giving so-called longevity payments of more than $13 million twice a year to unionized state employees, which are essentially bonuses, just for being employed.

In total, 27,388 state employees received their October bonuses, costing the state of Connecticut more than $13.65 million. A large percentage of the state’s workforce who received these bonuses belonged to the state employees union. Most of the bonuses for the union members were negotiated as part of the 2011 State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition concession package by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Longevity pay is a set of payments that are made to state workers after they have been employed by the state for certain thresholds of time. They begin at 10 years and increase every five years thereafter. The payments are above their normal state salary, and are made in two lump sums every April and October.

This time around, political appointees did not receive biannual bonuses, but instead they will have the amount of the annual longevity bonus included in their base pay, so the savings for the state will be minimal in the short term.

Hwang said this practice has been in place since the 1960s, and is a prime example of how the old way of doing state business simply must change.

“The argument in favor of these longevity payments has been that they help retain the best and most qualified people in important state positions,” Hwang said. “Even if we concede the dubious assertion that it accomplishes this, these are hardly the times to be throwing extra money at state employees.

“At a time when the anticipated state budget deficit over the next three fiscal years is $1.8 billion and Connecticut families are dealing with steady 8% unemployment, many of them facing foreclosure and other hardships, government needs to tighten its belt before asking heavily taxed residents to contribute more.

No one is out to blame state employees, Hwang said, but when the rest of the working world is struggling to make ends meet, state employees need to be a part of the solution.

“With a much higher level of job security than most people enjoy, they also have claim to one of the generous health and retirement benefits packages available anywhere,” he said. “Connecticut residents are already the highest taxed in the nation. This is a $20 million expenditure they could well do without. If there really is to be ‘shared sacrifice’ this is a great place to start.

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