Connecticut’s Top 10 Pensioners for 2012
(Corrected Sept. 5, 11:16 a.m.) Last month the U.S. Census released a report that found Connecticut offered the highest average annual benefit payment in 2011.
With an average annual payment of $35,079 to retirees, Connecticut was one of six states with average annual benefit payments above $30,000. In 2011, 469 pensioners received annual pensions of more than $100,000.
Just one year later in 2012, according to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s office, Connecticut’s top pensioner was John Viega, a former professor at the University of Connecticut, who received an annual pension of $276,364. Gregory Anderson, a UConn professor, came in 10th with an annual pension of $185,778.
The rest of the top 10 pensioners in 2012, were as follows:
—Jack Blechner of the UConn Health Center, received $270,234;
—Dr. Edward Blanchette, a doctor with the Department of Correction, received $226,658;
—Harry Hartley, a UConn professor and former president of the university, received $211,652;
—Richard Judd, former president of Central Connecticut State University, received $208,335;
—Eugene Sigman of the UConn Health Center, received $204,352;
—Anthony Dibenedetto, another UConn professor, received $203,594;
—John Raye of the UConn Health Center, received $200,597 and;
—Leslie Cutler of the UConn Health Center, received $198,318.
In 2011, pension benefits for state employees were changed under the agreement made by the coalition of unions with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
As part of those negotiations Malloy asked all state employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries for 10 years to the “other post retirement benefits” account, which includes mostly retiree health care benefits. That portion of the pension fund is underfunded to the tune of $26 billion and accounts for a greater portion of the state’s unfunded liabilities.
According to the U.S. Census report released in August, Connecticut isn’t unlike the rest of the states when it comes to asking employees to contribute a greater amount.
From 2010 to 2011, total contributions for state—and locally—administered pension systems increased 8.7 percent, from $125.5 billion to $136.5 billion. Employee contributions increased 3.1 percent, from $39.1 billion in 2010 to $40.3 billion in 2011 (and comprised 29.5 percent of total contributions in 2011), according to the U.S. Census report. Government contributions increased 11.3 percent, from $86.4 billion in 2010 to $96.2 billion in 2011 (and comprised 70.5 percent of total contributions in 2011).
On balance though, “government contributions outweighed employee contributions with a 2.4 to 1 ratio, total contributions were only 22.2 percent of the revenue source for state and local pensions in 2011. Most of the revenue (77.8 percent) was from earnings on investments.”
Connecticut has done well with its pension investments, seeing a return this past year of 11.49 percent. However, the state still has one of the highest unfunded pension liabilities in the nation.
The most recent actuarial valuation of the pension funds showed that as of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42.3 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55.24 percent.
The next report is not due to be released until after the Nov. 2014 election.
Editor’s note: An original version of this story reported that Michael Panciera, a former Transportation Department employee, received an annual pension of $282,166 and that Eleanor Henken, a former UConn Health Center employee, receive a pension of $239,708. The state Comptroller’s office later discovered that their query of the top 10 pensioners was flawed because those two, one-time payments went to the estates of the deceased employees and should not have been considered annual pension payments.