State governments can do many things with the federal aid they received under last year’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP). One thing they are expressly prohibited from doing is pouring that money into pensions for well-paid public employees. Connecticut is doing it anyway.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s just-released $48 billion two-year budget proposal funnels $2.9 billion in special deposits into the state employee and teacher pension funds. This is an amount equal to the federal aid the state received under ARP. These special deposits are over and above CT’s regularly scheduled $7.2 billion in state contributions to the two retirement systems.
Mr. Lamont outlined his plan for the federal stimulus money in February 2021, before ARP became law. “If additional federal aid for state and local governments is not enacted,” Lamont's budget proposal last year read, the state would draw down its rainy-day “budget reserve fund” (BRF) to fund its budget. But if “unrestricted” federal assistance came through, the state would use that money—rather than the BRF—to shore up the general budget. That would leave the BRF overstuffed. Under state law, when the BRF exceeds 15% of the annual budget, the excess must be moved into the pension funds.