The latest quarterly state overtime spending report from Connecticut's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis is setting off warning flares.

Overtime spending jumped 12% in the first quarter of fiscal 2018 compared to the same period last year.

State overtime spending
State overtime spending is on pace to hit more than a quarter of a billion dollars in fiscal 2018.

Combined overtime costs for all state workers in the quarter was $63.2 million, an increase of $6.7 million over last year's first quarter.

That rate of spending projects to $252.8 million for the full year—a potential 24% jump from fiscal 2017, when overtime costs fell to a six-year low of $204.4 million.

Overtime spending declined in both 2016 and 2017 after hitting an all-time high of $256.1 million in 2015.

The agreement the state reached with a coalition of state employee labor unions earlier this year makes some modifications on state workers using overtime to inflate their pension payments.

But, unfortunately, it's not ending that practice.

Agency Overtime Tabs

As OFA's latest quarterly report shows, there are reasons—millions of them—to monitor overtime use by state employees, particularly in state mental health facilities, prisons, and the state police.

Just five state agencies account for 94% of the total overtime bill for the first quarter, and four of them are up over the previous year.

The Department of Correction accounted for the largest overtime tab during the quarter—$15.9 million, a 22% jump over the same period in fiscal 2017.

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services spent $12.9 million (up 9%), the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection jumped 14% to $7 million, and employees at the Department of Children and Families accrued $5 million in overtime, a 14% increase.

Overtime spending at the Department of Developmental Services fell 2% to $12.4 million for the quarter.

At 516%, the Department of Social Services had the largest percentage increase for the quarter.

Staggering Numbers

The number of state employees tapping into overtime is also up—14,238 employees in the first quarter of 2017-18 compared to 13,954 during last year's first quarter.

This has got to stop.

The numbers from fiscal 2017 tell why.

In one case, a state police sergeant with a base pay of $80,00 ended up earning $300,000 in a single year.

This is not an isolated case.

Here are the next top five overtime earners, all of whom work for DMHAS:

State EmployeeBase PayOvertimeGross PayOT/Base Pay
A.$77,306$154,251$262,838199%
B.$79,400$138,211*$237,659174%
C.$95,548$98,587*$220,463103%
D.$68,851$126,975*$219,451184%
E.$59,367$125,548*$214,405211%
*Some have earnings besides base pay and overtime.

 

Ultimately, this excessive overtime spikes pensions and hurts Connecticut taxpayers.

The Office of the State Comptroller also cites 1,030 state retirees each earning over $100,000 per year in pension payouts. Those 1,030 retirees alone cost state taxpayers $120 million a year.

More Must Be Done

Reducing the cost of government and Connecticut's massive long-term liabilities is critical to restoring the state's economy and creating a stable environment for business investment and job creation.

To its credit, the Malloy administration has made progress in tracking and reducing the use of overtime.

When agencies have 10, 20, or 100 workers using excessive amounts of overtime, further reforms are sorely needed.
Overtime spending fell 7% in fiscal 2017 from 2016, when the state spent about $219 million. In 2016, state agencies cut overtime costs by $37.1 million compared with the previous fiscal year.

These are critical steps toward much-needed, long-term state spending reforms.

The second responsibility is to provide enough staff to cover necessary overtime without allowing this abuse to take place. This includes modifying work rules.

Time to Call the Auditors?

To be sure, the men and women who serve our state in our public safety and healthcare work hard and provide critical and valuable services.

But should they be caring for a critical patient or conducting a high-speed chase in the 89th hour of their work week?

It's a good idea that the comptroller's office and the legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis monitor state overtime spending. It may be time for the Auditors of Public Accounts to get into the act.

The auditors routinely audit state agencies and programs for performance, fiscal accountability, and good practices.

And when agencies have 10, 20, or 100 workers using excessive amounts of overtime, professional outside oversight is warranted and further reforms are sorely needed.


Pete Gioia is an economist with CBIA. Follow him on Twitter @CTEconomist.