Senator Witkos: Legislation Unfairly Targets Retired Teachers

March 27, 2012
State Senator Kevin Witkos, center, speaks at a press conference Tuesday with members of the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC), left, and State Senator Len Fasano, right.

State Senator Kevin Witkos, center, speaks at a press conference Tuesday with members of the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC), left, and State Senator Len Fasano, right.

Hartford – State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton) held a press conference today to bring attention to legislation that would force retired teachers to pay greater out-of-pocket expenses for their health insurance premiums and to offer alternative budget savings. House Bill 5016, An Act Concerning The Governor’s Recommendations Concerning General Government, would save $7.6 million for use elsewhere in the budget and is currently being considered before the Appropriations Committee.

“This legislation unfairly targets teachers who have given over 32 years of dedication to their profession and have made the decision to retire based on assumed benefits and their respective costs,” said Senator Witkos. “Under Governor Malloy’s plan, retired teachers will now have to pay the lion’s share of their health insurance premiums, while the state has reduced their share because of the inability to achieve cost savings measures elsewhere in the budget.”

In the current system, retired teachers over the age of 65 are required to pay 33% of their health insurance premium while the state covers 33% and the Teachers Retirement Board (TRB) Health Fund covers 33%. This bill, however, would require retired teachers to pay 42% of the premium while the state would pay 25% and the TRB Health Fund would remain stable at 33%. As a result, retired teachers over the age of 65 would see a 26% increase in monthly premium.

In addition, this bill would also cede much of the power of the Teachers Retirement Board to the Office of the Comptroller, a decision that was opposed by the TRB in an official resolution at the March 15th board meeting.

“It is simply not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game for retirees who live on a fixed income,” Senator Witkos continued. “Teachers who have paid into the system throughout their career will be left on the hook to pay an extra $7.6 million.”

Senator Witkos was joined at the press conference by retired teachers who spoke in opposition to the legislation, including members of the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC), the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), and the Connecticut branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT Connecticut).

State Senators Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford) were also in attendance and spoke about this legislation.

Senator Guglielmo said, “It is fundamentally unfair to change the rules after the fact. These teachers – dedicated to their profession for years – believed when they retired they could count on receiving a benefit that was bound by a contract. Now we are telling them no. That’s wrong.”

Senator Fasano said, “A deal is a deal. If you agree on a contract then you should honor that contract. This bill unfairly targets teachers and changes what they believed to be a binding agreement.”

Senator Witkos concluded by saying, “It certainly appears to be easier to take from those who do not have a seat at the table. This is why I am bringing this issue forward and calling on the Chairs of the Appropriations Committee to change the language of this bill with the alternatives that I have offered here today.”

Senator Witkos offered a range of possible savings that could be implemented instead of requiring retired teachers to pay more for their health insurance premiums. They include:

FY 2013   
Potential Budget Option Budget Savings   
Reduce Statewide Marketing Account by Amount Not Needed to Fund $22 million Contract $4,000,000
Consolidate Legislative Commissions into a New Commission on Protected Classes $1,000,000
Eliminate Funding for the New Innovation Challenge Grant Program $500,000
Eliminate Remaining Funding for Interdistrict Cooperation Competitive Grant Program $6,131,935
Outsource Food Service for Correctional Inmates – Reflects 6 Months of Savings $4,154,216
Total – Examples of Savings $15,786,151