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Everything About the Public Employee Package is Suspect, Starting With its Provenance

To the Editor:

With the General Assembly having signed off on HR 11 & SR 12, all’s that needed to enact this election-year graft is Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature. Since his team negotiated the new pay package, it’s unlikely Mr. Lamont will have a last-minute epiphany and scuttle it.

As we all know, the agreement boosts the pay of workers under the SEBAC agreement by nearly $2 billion dollars in the next two years. It will toss in generous, no-strings-attached bonuses paid out now to stave off retirements in the summer. There’s nothing to keep a worker from pocketing this little gift and driving off to a sunny retirement in Florida. Worse, the pay and bonuses will factor into the COLA calculator. This means our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be obligated to pay for this monstrosity “to infinity and beyond.”

Everything about this package is suspect, starting with its provenance. It was negotiated in secret between a governor running for re-election and his most reliable constituency, Connecticut’s public sector workers. A detailed cost analysis was made public two days before a holiday weekend. As with too much of the business conducted by Mr. Lamont,  this is a deal made behind closed doors and dropped on the public as a fait accompli.

The governor and the General Assembly, OUR representatives, have known for three years this day of retirement reckoning was nigh. A year ago, Boston Consulting Group offered recommendations to prepare for the retirements. Mr. Lamont did nothing, and the legislature did nothing to force his hand.  This agreement is a mini Band-aid slapped on a hemorrhage. If reports are accurate, we will experience an even worse situation by 2024 when another several thousand workers becoming retirement eligible. If these past years hadn’t been one hapless fumble after another, I’d say we find ourselves in this current SNAFU by design.

For the record, state workers should be very afraid. With a pension obligation – a promise — in the tens of billions of dollars, at some point the spigot will drain dry. Then who’s going to foot the bill for those mortgage payments on that condo in Orlando? Remember: an unfunded promise is nothing more than a lie.

Negotiations should be adversarial, not a love fest. Unions’ agents are paid to win the best package for their members. I cannot really fault them for doing their job. On the other hand, Lamont’s and the legislators’ mission is to win the most advantageous agreement for ALL the citizens of this state, not a select minority of 45,000 workers. Clearly, no one involved with this deal acted in the best interests of me and others like me who must pay for these hikes and bonuses by raising even a single objection to its craven largess.  

It wasn’t the public sector that shed jobs when the government shut down the economy in a quixotic quest to eliminate Covid. It wasn’t public sector workers whose salaries were frozen or slashed. Yet we in the private sector faced the same risk of infection as state workers. We got just as sick. We died in equal numbers. Furthermore, the same workplace dynamics that supposedly drove this agreement – a need to attract and retain workers – also plague the private sector, who have no remedy other than raising wages ever higher and fueling prices we pay to live. 

Year after year, Hartford takes an ever-greater share of our earnings. We’re told we’re greedy if we don’t play along. That money expropriated from us to fund rapacious agreements like this is not a means to a shiny BMW or McMansion. It is a manifestation of  our ingenuity, our talent, and our labor. It enables us to meet our responsibilities to our families and community. Did anyone in at the Capitol take this into account? Did any ever consider the long-term financial ramifications of this agreement on rest of us?

The government has no obligation to guarantee that its current and  retired workers maintain the lives to which they’ve become accustomed. That responsibility falls on the workers themselves, just as the quality of life I choose to live depends wholly on me.

I hope voters will remember this in November. I know I will.

Faith Ham
Cheshire, CT

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