Wilton legislators denounce state employees concession deal

Both state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) have voiced dismay at Monday’s House approval of the state employees’ union concession package due to its insufficient savings and structural changes and its extension of the current union contract until 2027.

The concession package, negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy and union leaders, was ratified by state employees earlier this month and now is tentatively scheduled to go before the Senate on July 31. Analysts have predicted the plan could save approximately $1.5 billion over the next two years by increasing pension contributions, creating a hybrid/defined contribution plan for future state employees, increasing healthcare co-payments, and realizing other labor savings. The deal also restricts the state’s ability to lay off workers until 2021.

House Republicans, including Lavielle, highlighted some of the structural change in the concession package as “steps in the right direction” that they supported, but denied the notion that the deal solved Connecticut’s fiscal crisis and indicated it could lead to funding cuts and tax increases in the future.

“Connecticut taxpayers have now seen where the priorities of the legislative majority truly lie: we are facing a $5.1-billion deficit over the next two years, one month into the fiscal year we still don’t have a budget, people are suffering due to deep service cuts, and yet we spent an entire day discussing a contract with state employee unions,” Lavielle said in a press release.

“The labor contract the House approved does not go far enough in achieving the savings our state desperately needs, and while it includes a few small steps on reforms that I’ve advocated for, the job is only half-done. I fear that this deal clears the way for continued future tax increases and cuts to essential services. Because it locks in the current, unaffordable union contract, every legislator who votes in favor of this deal bears responsibility for every single tax increase and service cut Connecticut residents may have to bear for the 10 years until the contract expires.”

Boucher voiced similar concerns on her Facebook page.

“These state employee contract concessions do not close the large budget deficits the state is facing nor are the generous benefits they provide anywhere near our municipal, teachers or private-sector benefits,” she wrote. “Approving this contract only continues the bad practices of the past and locks up the state of CT until 2027, leaving it unable to address the next recession by not allowing costs to be reduced when necessary. It is also prohibits layoffs.

“The only option will be large tax increases or more erosion of town and school support in the future after this administration has left. The contracts also provide more generous workplace benefits that will be costly and have yet to be disclosed to the public. Short-term concessions give way to even greater benefits in three years. … A vote in favor is a vote to continue to protect the state employee unions at the expense of the CT taxpayer.”

No action was taken Monday on passing a budget and of this Lavielle said, “All day we were told by majority leadership that this labor agreement was the only option for the state, despite the fact that House Republicans have been asking for a vote on our balanced, no tax-increase budget since April.

“This is not fair to the people of Connecticut, who deserve fair and open consideration of every viable budget option. It is unconscionable for the state to go this long without a two-year budget in place, and not voting on one is unacceptable. I will continue to advocate for taxpayers and to push for a vote on our budget regardless of what the majority party may do to block it.”