Minority Republicans in the state House of Representatives called Thursday for lawmakers to cancel “longevity” bonuses due next month to 4,000 senior state employees.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, also said Gov. M. Jodi Rell should ask unionized state employees to forfeit their longevity pay as state government grapples with a growing budget deficit.

“It’s something we cannot afford to do and it needs to be eliminated,” he said, calling the annual bonuses that range from $2,500 to $26,000 a “classic example” of an expense that needs to be cut immediately. “The clock is ticking.”

This fiscal year’s $18.64 billion budget is running $518.4 million in deficit, and nonpartisan legislative analysts are projecting deficits of $726 million and $3.88 billion for 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively.

The statute House Republicans hope to repeal mandates a bonus system for workers with more than 10 years of experience. Bonuses ranging from just under 1 percent of annual pay to 3.5 percent for workers with 25 years or more of seniority are paid in equal installments in October and April.

Bonuses for union and non-union workers cost the state $43 million last fiscal year.

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