Report by Paula Antolini
March 27, 2017 10:38AM EDT
Senator Boucher Testifies in Support of Bills for State Employee Health Care, Pension Change, to Lower Tax Burden on CT Residents and Businesses
State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) today testified before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee in support of bills she submitted to reign in state employee health care and pensions costs.
Sen. Boucher spoke about bills she submitted, SB 86, An Act Increasing CoPays under State Employee Health Care Plans, SB 87, An Act Increasing Contributions by State Employees to the State Employee Retirement System, SB 90, An Act Excluding Reimbursements to State Employees for Mileage and Payments for Overtime from the Calculation of Retirement Income, and SB 92, An Act Eliminating Longevity Payments and Overtime Compensation from the Calculation of Retirement Income for State Employees.
Sen. Boucher told the committee she believes passage of her bills would help to lower the tax burden on Connecticut residents and businesses by reforming some of the most expensive benefits in the nation.
“The current level state employee fringe benefits are driving up costs, taxes and budget deficits to an unsustainable level and have our put our state in financial peril. Other states, notably Rhode Island, and most Connecticut towns and cities have faced the high costs of employee benefits and made the changes needed to solve their budget problems,” she said. “It is past time that the state also moves in this direction and makes the reforms to the retirement system that must be made.”
SB 86 would raise state employees’ co-pays to $10 for prescriptions and $30 for doctor visits, while SB 87 would require state employees to contribute up to eight percent of their pay toward their pension benefits. SB 90 and SB 92 would address additions to regular salary, like mileage reimbursements and overtime pay, which are used to calculate employee pension payments.
“I understand that there may have been a time when such incentives were needed to attract and keep people in state service positions, but that is not the situation today,” Sen. Boucher said. “It has been disclosed and reported that these items to boost employee pensions are often abused.”
Under questioning by legislators on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Boucher said she is not trying to take away state employees’ benefits and pensions
“I fully understand the feelings that people have about these issues,” she said. “My concern is that we (should) have good pensions and good healthcare that is sustainable and should not be put at risk.”
Sen. Boucher said the committee is welcome to change the proposals so that they only apply to non-union employees as a test to see the kind of impact the measures would have on the budget and pension plan on a small scale. She pointed out that legislators are non-union state employees.
“We can lead by example,” she said
Even with the proposed changes, Sen. Boucher said state employees would still enjoy pay and benefits that surpass those found in the private sector. She said she hopes the legislators will vote out of committee some version of the bill to address the issues and make state budgets more sustainable
“The beauty of this committee is that it can take any of our proposals and change them any way you want,” she said.
Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.