Public Workers, Afraid of Losing Benefits, Retire Early

Friday, 25 Mar 2011 10:00 AM

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The number of state workers seeking early retirement has escalated rapidly this year as public employees seek to avoid layoffs and lock in promised benefits. The surge in retirement requests in Wisconsin, New Jersey, California, and elsewhere are expected to help those states trim their budgets and let them avoid making some politically sensitive job cuts, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Whether the early departures cost the states valued employees and needed expertise remains to be seen.

In Wisconsin, a major battleground for labor costs as Gov. Scott Walker installs measures to cut the budget, state-employee retirement requests this year are up 73 percent. What’s more, the number of public employees asking the state to calculate their potential benefits — a traditional first step toward retirement — has more than doubled.


New Jersey's public work force logged a record 20,327 retirements in 2010, compared with 12,720 in 2009. Many of those exiting were young enough to stay on but faced salary cuts and smaller retirement packages.


In California, civil engineer Guy Harris stepped down at age 50 after 27 years with the state’s transportation department. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they change the rules and say you can’t retire before 55,” Harris said. “I didn’t want to get stuck.”


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