State Worker Retirements Are Soaring Across the Country

Retired coupleState workers are retiring in droves.

Call it a sign of the troubled fiscal times, when governors are pushing for steep cuts in employee wages and benefits as they seek to restore their states to fiscal health.

Whatever you call it, it amounts to a huge challenge. Many employees of cash-strapped states, such as New Jersey, California and New York, appear headed for the exits -- trying to get out while they still have pensions -- as governors pressure workers and their unions to contribute more toward their health care and retirement.

That's no surprise, considering the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 45 states and the District of Columbia face a combined shortfall of $125 billion for fiscal 2012.

Worsening a Brain Drain

Although politics may play a role in some of these departures, they also underscore a demographic reality. According to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, public sector workers tend to be older and more educated than their counterparts in the private sector. And growth in government employment outpaced private sector employment growth between 1992 and 2008.

The departures now are coming on top of a brain drain of state workers who were axed in budget cuts over the past few years. Another 400,000 government workers could lose their jobs this year. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is threatening to lay off hundreds of state workers unless the legislature passes his spending plan, which includes a controversial proposal to strip employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

In New Jersey, state worker retirements soared by 60% in 2010 as Gov. Chris Christie pressured them to pay more money toward their pension and health care costs. Bloomberg News estimates that the number of retirement applications has reached its highest level in a decade. Christie's battles with the teacher's union also have taken its toll in retirement plans: The number of teacher retirements surged 95% last year, the largest increase of any public sector group, Bloomberg reports.

A Coast-to-Coast Trend

California also saw retirements of its state workers, including teachers and bureaucrats, jump 22.6% to 30,119 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. That represents the biggest annual gain in retirements since at least 2000, according to the California Pubic Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest public pension fund. Projections for retirements for the current 2010-2011 fiscal year anticipate 31,800 retirements, according to CalPERS spokesman Bob Burton.

Nearly 13,000 New York State workers retired in 2010, up more than 60% from the previous year's 7,449 retirements. The state offered an early-retirement plan for some workers, which boosted the number, according to Eric Sumberg, press secretary for the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

That figure doesn't include New York teacher retirements. Those ranks are expected to swell this year, thanks to a separate early-retirement program for teachers, says John Cardillo, a spokesman for the New York State Teachers' Retirement System. Last year, 5,501 New York teachers retired, slightly lower than in 2009.

According to the Florida Retirement System, 11,639 of its members retired between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010. That compares with 10,888 retirements for the year-earlier period, says spokeswoman Lauren Engel.

Early Retirement Incentives?

The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System expects 5,751 members to be added to its annuity payroll in 2011, up from 5,109 in 2010 and 3,806 in 2009. The actual number of retirees "will be highly dependent on whether any changes negotiated as part of the new employee contract provide employees with an incentive to leave earlier or stay longer than they might otherwise have planned," spokeswoman Pamela J. Hile writes in an email.

More than 4,800 Texas state workers retired last year as of August 2010, versus 3,044 for the same period a year earlier. The Employment Retirement System of Texas, which excludes teachers, expect 5,425 retirements this year, says spokeswoman Catherine Terrell.

Finally, in Illinois, officials expect 2,600 retirements in the current fiscal year, according to spokesman Tim Blair. That compares to 2,416 Illinois state worker retirements in the 2010 fiscal year and 2,046 in 2009.

Whether more public workers would leave if they could remains unclear, but the morale of government workers certainly appears to be suffering.

"Morale issues are important to think about," says Elizabeth Kellar, CEO of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, in an interview. "It's important for the general public to know that we are beating up on the people who take care of us."

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My wife retired from the county. Aa a private sector employee, I was AMAZED at the benefits.

March 21 2011 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's some of the real problem, that many shortsighted people are missing - especialy a lot of the respondents of this article here above!

March 12 2011 at 8:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hi cat

We all have a story about bad services from State gov. I get lousy service from the phone company and the utilty also. Idiots like 7726 enjoy those waits? Managers in GOV are appointees,relatives from the Governor and high placed officials who get huge salaries and benefits and do not show up for work. Therevvesd up public has beeen played like a violin and distracted from why we are in a mess: management ( better called MIS Managememen) either stole or gamled or both, the pension contributions from millions of workers. On the MACRO scale the robber barrons who buy elections ( Bloomberg in NYC ) have looted the NAtional treasury so thoroughly from past present and future income that they have to look for some other place to loot like worker pensions and paid for premiums. All devalued by an engineered market crash.
(corporate thieves) love Chinese and Mexican children.. they work for nada.
So if there was still job base here in the state or country people would not have to take the only jobs available... gov jobs. The stupid public is paying for illegal "WORKERS" who send their pesos OUT OF THE USA. Yet, the fascisti won't be happy until we will all beg them for a minimum wage job with no job security or benefits. 77276 is ignorant and does not know the history of labor in the US!!
Also, public unions have their faults and entiled to lobby for friendly legislators just like EXXON or Blackwater. What's the difference from re:lobbyist bribes and favors from their puppet politicians?

March 05 2011 at 1:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hi cat's comment

what fascists are you referring to ? the freekin unions ? or management ?
why NOT start with the MTA AND the twu ? BOTH hold millions hostage on a daily basis......then let's go to the sanitation workers doing a SLOW DOWN during a blizzard...then mountains of SNOW and trash for 3 weeks plus deaths due to impassable streets--shall we now go over to wizzzzzconsin ? LOL. who ARE the fascists ?

March 05 2011 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That last paragraph is indicative of the entitlement attitude. When was the last time anyone at all was "taken care of" by a government employee? I can personally say that I went to a local government office to seek out information about obtaining licensing... there was a person, whose sole purpose was to see that entrants got into a specific line of the 4 lines available. This person never asked me a thing, only directed me into Line #2. I waited approx. 20 minutes to get to the front of that line, only to be advised by another government employee (the clerk at the window) that licensing questions and issues are addressed in Line #4. Both employees were completely useless. Needless to say, I am not licensed in that County, nor will I purchase products or own property. They won't get a single revenue dollar from me and I hope their "pensions" dry up and blow away.

March 04 2011 at 3:45 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jleup77276's comment
hi cat

sour grape a**hole has to wait in line like every body else pity pity

March 05 2011 at 1:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

They are all leaving because the word is that the states will demand a work ethic be inclued in the new contracts.Damn. My Dad was right.

March 03 2011 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Seems to me the state workers are bailing before their retirment benefit packages get changed.

March 03 2011 at 10:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

BRAIN DRAIN MY FOOT! I guess becuase the guy who wrote this propaganda is in the private sector, he must be using his own intellect as the basis for calling governmwnt workers more educated!

At least Mr. Berr lists the origin of that garbage piece of propaganda! The Center for STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT EXCELLENCE! The name says it all!

The mere fact this guy references so called studies like the aformentioned without even examining or challenging the particulars indicates that it is he in fact, that is either legitimately lazy and not so smart or a biast propagandist himself!

15 road workers not even good at looking busy patching that piece of road for the 15th time. Long stretches of road with cones an no workers is another common sight.

March 03 2011 at 9:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cncntrt's comment

cncntrt, right on, IM sure we will be seeing more of this type of reporting since Huffinton is involved... Hooray for the retirements, get rid of the dead wood and hire the new ones at affordable wages. Every state and city in the country is in trouble and these bloodsuckers are the cause.

March 03 2011 at 10:51 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

With all the unemployed we should not have any problem filling the drain. Lets hope it does not get clogged with those on the way out and they have done such a wonderful job?

March 03 2011 at 9:43 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

ohio is trying to do the same thing wisconsin wants to do and it looks like ohio will succeed. the whole thing can be summed up by asking 1 question to the 360,000 state employee's. will you quit your job if this legislation passes? 2 or 32 of them might. the rest will realize even though the job is not as good as it was yesterday, it is still better than what 99.9% of them could find elsewhere.

March 03 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

A "state worker brain drain"? I wonder if Berr has ever considered a career writing one-liners for stand-up comedians. That one is HILARIOUS!

March 03 2011 at 9:08 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply