December 13, 2018

Want to know what your neighbor's state pension is? Now there's a way

PHOTO | HBJ File
PHOTO | HBJ File
The State Capitol in Hartford.

Out of the $2 billion in pension payments Connecticut will make this year, the average is $38,212 and the largest is more than $322,000 for a retired University of Connecticut Health Center professor.

The smallest pension payment in 2018 was $45.

Want to know the rest?

The answer is now just a few computer clicks away.

State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo launched his new OpenPension website on Wednesday, the latest in a series of sites to implement the comptroller's fiscal transparency program.

"OpenPension is an important addition to the OpenConnecticut portal that builds on my commitment to make Connecticut's government the most open and transparent in the nation," Lembo said. "As Connecticut faces persistent immediate and long-term financial challenges, OpenConnecticut will continue to expand and serve as a source for policy makers and the public so that we can have informed debates in finding solutions."

Visitors at OpenPension.ct.gov can search by a former employee's name or job title, or by state department.

The results list annual pension payments year-by-year, as well as the retiree's payroll history while on the job. Results only date back to 2014, when the state completed its transition to an electronic payroll system.

For example, retired University of Connecticut Health Center Professor Jack Blechner has the highest state pension at $322,674.

Four of the five highest pensions are UConn retirees, including former university President Harry Hartley, whose pension this year is $245,451. Another in the top five is Edward Blanchette, the former medical director for the prison system. His pension this year is $262,854.

Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who served from mid-2004 through 2010, will receive $71,998 this year. Her immediate predecessor, Gov. John G. Rowland, will receive $53,861.

The average pension this year, according to the site, is $38,212.

There are 39,747 retirees living in Connecticut. The second-most-popular destination is Florida, where 4,877 retired Connecticut state workers live. Massachusetts, with 1,638, is the only other state with more than 1,000 Connecticut retirees.

Records prior to 2014 are kept on microfiche but are available for public review. Some state employees, depending on the pension programs available when they were hired, could select a pension that could be transferred upon death to a beneficiary. This information also is not on the website, but the documents are public and also available for review in Lembo's office.

Connecticut's pension programs for state employees and municipal school teachers have been under intense scrutiny in recent years after several analyses warned that required annual contributions to these funds would surge significantly through the mid-2030s.

This trend is expected to place increasing pressure on all other segments of the state budget, while making harder for officials to avoid raising taxes.

Both programs are among the worst-funded nationally. Connecticut governors and legislatures largely saved nothing for pensions — thereby forfeiting income from pension investments — from 1939 through the early 1980s. And from the early '80s through 2010, Connecticut routinely contributed less than the full amount recommended annually by fund actuaries.

OpenPension is the latest website developed under the OpenConnecticut program Lembo launched in 2013. Other sites include: OpenCheckbook, which allows visitors to track state expenditures; OpenPayroll, which provides state employees' salary information; and OpenBudget, which allows visitors to explore revenue and appropriation data, and calculate the value of potential tax changes or spending cuts.

"OpenConnecticut will never be complete – it will always remain a work in progress as we continue to find new ways to expand access to government data," Lembo said. "I look forward to continue growing this site and other initiatives that bring Connecticut residents closer to government."

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, praised the Democratic comptroller Wednesday for the latest addition to the OpenConnecticut database.

"The public should have tools to explore and understand government spending," Fasano said. "The new OpenPension database is a valuable resource to shine the light on state government so we can have an honest discussion about the issues and costs we face as a state."

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