Gov. Dannel Malloy chose six current and two former legislators to serve in his administration, a decision that will cost taxpayers millions in extra pension payments when these public officials retire.
All state employees, including legislators, are eligible for state pensions based on the three highest-income years. A former legislator lucky enough to get a job in a governor’s administration gets not only a large, immediate pay raise. He also gets a huge potential boost to his pension should he stay in the administration for as little as three years.
Three of Malloy’s appointees will make more than the governor, who earns $150,000 a year. Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan, a former state senator and lieutenant governor, will earn $170,000 a year. Former Sen. Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s general counsel, will earn $160,000, as will former Sen. Donald DeFronzo, who will serve as Department of Administrative Services commissioner. For more salaries, see the updated Connecticut Plum Book.
If DeFronzo retired as a $39,891-a-year state senator, he would have received an annual pension of $15,201. However, after four years making $160,000 as commissioner, his pension will rise to an estimated $74,269 per year. If DeFronzo retires at the regular retirement age and draws his pension for 25 years, his total pension will reach $1.8 million. That’s $1.4 million more than the aggregate pension he’d have received by retiring as a state legislator.
After four years as a commissioner, Sullivan’s pension would rise from $15,502 to $65,836 at a cost of $1.3 million over 25 years.
Rep. Mike Lawlor, who will earn $135,000 as Office of Policy and Management undersecretary of criminal justice policy and planning, will see his pension rise from $16,145 to $58,898 at a cost to taxpayers over 25 years of $1.1 million.
McDonald’s increased pension will cost taxpayers an extra $725,705 over 25 years because his pension will rise from $9,387 to $38,415.
Rep. David McCluskey, who will earn $98,000 as a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, will see his pension rise from $8,000 to $22,822. Over a 25-year retirement, this increase will cost taxpayers $370,558.
McCluskey, who until his administrative appointment worked for state employee unions, will receive the same credit for each year in the part-time legislature that the state police officers and nurses he used to represent get for a year in their full-time jobs.
Reps. Chris Caruso and Deborah Heinrich will earn $70,000 as an advisor to the Department of Economic and Community Development and a cabinet-level advocate for nonprofits, respectively.
Caruso’s pension will rise from $13,590 to $22,344, costing taxpayers $218,841 over 25 years. Heinrich’s pension will rise from $4,608 to $9,310 at a cost of $117,552.
Former state representative and East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey will earn $130,000 as Malloy’s Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Currey’s legislative pension could not be estimated, but she can expect a pension of $44,264 after four years as commissioner. Her total pension will cost taxpayers $1 million over 25 years.
The seven Malloy appointees excluding Currey will earn $5.2 million in additional pension benefits over 25 years.
Malloy appointees are not alone in receiving pension boosts from new jobs. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a former state representative, will earn $110,000 in her new job. After one term, her pension will rise from $11,184 to $32,920. Merrill’s pension increase is worth $583,403 over 25 years.
Rep. James Spallone, who will earn $140,689 as Merrill’s deputy, can expect his pension to rise from $7,338 to $30,907, at a cost of $589,205 over 25 years.
Of course, if any of these appointees collects a pension for more than 25 years, the cost to taxpayers would go up accordingly, not to mention cost of living adjustments which vary year to year.
All pension calculations are estimates based on not taking early retirement, salary data from www.CTSunlight.org and published biographies. They do not take into account wage increases during Malloy’s term in office or the cost of living increases guaranteed to retirees.
Most state employees can retire without penalty at age 60 or 62.
For each year of service, a state employee gets 1.33 percent of their average salary – from the three highest years. (Pension = Average salary X .0133 X years of service)
Dollars earned over a certain point – $58,100 in 2011 and $73,400 in 2015 – are extra-weighted in pension calculations making high salary pensions go up quicker with each year served.
Employees who earn more than the “breakpoint” use an additional calculation that adds to their pension. In 2011, the breakpoint is $58,100. Employees who make more than the breakpoint add .5 percent of their average salary above the breakpoint times their years of service. (Pension with breakpoint = pension + average salary X.005 X years of service)
The breakpoint calculation makes the pensions of high-salary employees grow at a rapid rate.