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Session Ends, But The Work Is Far From Over

by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid | Jun 9, 2011 1:03am
(24) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Budget, State Capitol

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addresses a joint convention of the legislature

Re-establishing a tradition eschewed by his predecessor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addressed the General Assembly early Thursday morning shortly before they adjourned and told them the “signature effort” of the legislation session was the two-year, $40.11 billion budget.

But even before Republican lawmakers could question his brief 9 minute remarks to a packed House chamber, Malloy was quick to admit that one more step needed to be taken before the budget was balanced. The $1.6 billion union concession package needs to be ratified by the state employee unions.

“I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope they ratify the agreement so that we can avoid going to Plan B and large-scale and long-term layoffs,” Malloy told the General Assembly.

Earlier this week, the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis told Republican lawmakers they didn’t have enough information to verify the $1.6 billion in concessions estimated by Malloy’s administration and union leadership. But Malloy was not fazed by the revelation and told reporters this week that no matter what happens he will find those savings in order to balance the budget if the agreement is ratified.

“Upon ratification, Connecticut will have a state government that is sustainable,“ said Malloy. “That means government will be able to provide the services that are needed, but at a lower cost to taxpayers.”

And while he touted the progressive polices the legislature was able to pass this year — such as an earned income tax credit, paid sick days, decriminalization of marijuana, and a bill protecting transgender individuals — Malloy surprised many in the chamber by alluding to a special session this fall to deal solely with jobs.

“In the next few days I’ll be reaching out to legislative leaders to talk about coming back here in the fall so that we can have a special session that focuses on one thing: jobs,” Malloy told lawmakers. “We should feel good about what we did, but we should also be mindful of how much more there is to do.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he bets Malloy surprised almost everyone in the chamber by mentioning a possible special session. Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, agreed, joking that UBS may have already moved back to New York by that time.

Earlier in the evening, Cafero said he’s disappointed the transparency Malloy promised at the beginning of the session never continued. The honeymoon between the first Democratic governor in 20 years and the minority party was over almost before it began.

He said they knew it would be a tough session with one party controlling the legislature and the governor‘s office, but he said what they didn’t know was that it was going to be one branch rule.

Cafero said Malloy has dictated most of the session and broke his promises to work with Republicans.

“Most of it is a disappointment. It’s been historic in all the wrong ways,” Cafero said citing the largest tax increase in the state’s history and legislation such as mandated paid sick days.

But Malloy believes stabilizing the state’s financing signals the business community and lets them know Connecticut is predictable.

“As you’ve heard me say many times, we needed to send the business community a message that we’re serious about stabilizing the state’s finances. We did that — and then some,” Malloy told the legislature Thursday.

But not everyone in the business community agrees.

Joe Brennan, senior vice president of public policy for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the session was disappointing from a business perspective.

“We came in to this year thinking that getting our fiscal house in order and getting the economy on track would be what the session would focus on,” he said.

Brennan said it didn’t work out that way. Instead, the legislature passed the largest tax increase in state history, which hit medium and small businesses especially hard, he said, adding that not much was done to curb the cost of operating state government.

Connecticut becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law mandating some employers provide paid leave to employees was an especially negative signal to businesses, he said. And the fact that the captive audience bill was poised to get a vote in both chambers before the attorney general said it pre-empted federal law also was a bad sign, he said.

Brennan said the first session in 20 years under a Democratic governor looked a little different than past sessions. For one thing most of the budget was adopted far earlier than normal, he said. Malloy also behaved differently than his predecessors, he said.

“Seeing the governor engage some of the bills that we were interested in has been a change. We haven’t seen that as much over the last several years,” he said.

He noticed a difference in lawmakers as well, and not a good one. There was a starker disconnect between what legislators said on the campaign trail and where they stood when it came time to cast their votes, he said.

“A lot of people came in with high expectations because last November, when all these people were running for office, all they talked about was the economy and jobs being their top priority” but the votes cast over the course of the session did not reflect that, he said.

For better or worse, it’s clear Connecticut’s new governor is different and lawmakers, lobbyists, and staffers are still trying to figure him out. The breakneck speed and defense of his proposals have set forth a different pace to which many at the state Capitol are not accustomed.

Carroll Hughes, a veteran lobbyist, said one thing that distinguished this legislative session from those of the recent past was the addition of the “best lobbyist” to the building. The lobbyist he’s talking about is none other than Malloy.

“He’s very firm on his agenda, and he’s very direct,” Hughes said Wednesday evening. “He’s the best lobbyist I’ve ever encountered in my life.”

“I enjoy somebody whose still a mayor and can walk up to school children, lobbyists, reporters, veterans, and anyone else who visits the Capitol,” Hughes said. “He still enjoys people.” He said that’s different than previous governor’s who tend not to roam the building just to talk with people and shake their hands or listen to their stories.

Hughes said he’s disagreed with the governor on occasion, but when he does he lets him know and a dialogue ensues.

Click here for our previous story on the conclusion of the 2011 session.

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(24) Comments

posted by: ... | June 9, 2011  1:22am

...

Man those staffers/clerks run fast and speak quickly on the House floor. I wonder how many of them are auctioneers during the break?

That last 30 minutes was certainly exciting. Especially hearing the groans for Tallarita as she chose not to propose the Sunday Sales amendment and hold off for another year.

A historic session and one that we’ll be talking about for years (or at least in about 3 of them).

posted by: WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot | June 9, 2011  8:16am

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

Let the “large-scale and long-term layoffs” Begin!

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 9, 2011  9:35am

We go from 6 years of a do-nothing governor to 6 months of spending like a drunken sailor.

God help us when the lame offer to state employees goes down in flames by a landslide NO! vote.  I don’t think he has the capacity to get himself out of the corner he painted himself into.

posted by: Frankly | June 9, 2011  10:43am

The concession vote will probably be passed.  Union state-workers are not as unreasonable and self-serving and blind as some commenters suggest. The concession is a good deal (though not perfect) for most state workers. It would be masochistic and foolish to vote no.  This concession deal is a “gift” to state workers in a time of true economic depression.  Voting “yes” is the positive, and pro-active and constructive thing to do.

posted by: Mr.Kruger | June 9, 2011  6:02pm

Frankly:  You must come from money and don’t mind giving back the tens of thousands this agreement will take from us.  You speak for the minority on this issue.  If Malloy wants blood we are prepared, and god help the citizens of CT when they come to realize how much of the work we do affects there everyday lives.  Lock up your wives and children as the convicts and loonies are released in your neighborhood.  Don’t expect your call to 911 to get you any response.  You are now on your own.  I hate being like this, but I didn’t cause the economy to tank, yet everyone thinks state employees should pay.  This will not work and Malloy is hoping his bully tactic works.  Didn’t work for Weiker, won’t work here.

posted by: BMS | June 9, 2011  6:16pm

The Govonor’s Limited Authority To Cut Spending CGS 4-85(b)  allotment requisition and any allotment in force shall be subject to the following: (1) If the Governor determines that due to a change in circumstances since the budget was adopted certain reductions should be made in allotment requisitions or allotments in force or that estimated budget resources during the fiscal year will be insufficient to finance all appropriations in full, the Governor may modify such allotment requisitions or allotments in force to the extent the Governor deems necessary. Before such modifications are effected the Governor shall file a report with the joint standing committee having cognizance of matters relating to appropriations and the budgets of state agencies and the joint standing committee having cognizance of matters relating to state finance, revenue and bonding describing the change in circumstances which makes it necessary that certain reductions should be made or the basis for his determination that estimated budget resources will be insufficient to finance all appropriations in full. (2) If the cumulative monthly financial statement issued by the Comptroller pursuant to section 3-115 includes a projected General Fund deficit greater than one per cent of the total of General Fund appropriations, the Governor, within thirty days following the issuance of such statement, shall file a report with such joint standing committees, including a plan which he shall implement to modify such allotments to the extent necessary to prevent a deficit. No modification of an allotment requisition or an allotment in force made by the Governor pursuant to this subsection shall result in a reduction of more than three per cent of the total appropriation from any fund or more than five per cent of any appropriation, except such limitations shall not apply in time of war, invasion or emergency caused by natural disaster.

posted by: gutbomb86 | June 9, 2011  6:42pm

gutbomb86

Thanks, Mr. Kruger - if there was any doubt public opinion should not favor the unions, you just removed that doubt.

posted by: WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot | June 9, 2011  6:55pm

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

Public Opinion favors the unions. They want what we have. They already had it taken away from them and now want us to do the same. Misery loves company.

Why should state employees get burdened with unimaginable give backs due to no fault of theirs. This is not shared sacrifice.

Why am I not reading everyday about Municipalities asking their unions for give backs at the level the state employees are???

That would be shared, wouldn’t it?

The unions members should reject this SHAM orchestrated by their “leadership” and the administration and tell them ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

posted by: hawkeye | June 9, 2011  8:18pm

DrHunterSThompson:  How much could our previous Governor do, with a Democratic General Assembly?  At least she kept the state nonest—where your role-model- “spend & tax Malloy’—just buried all of us—into oblivion, with his rubber-stamp-big spenders, that won’t cut our budget, but add $1 billion dollars to spending!

posted by: hawkeye | June 9, 2011  8:24pm

Gov. Malloy’s photograph illustrates the heavy lines on his forehead—which suggests that he is in—“way over his-head!”

posted by: ... | June 9, 2011  10:04pm

...

Hawkeye, how can lines on Malloy’s forehead head be ‘over his head’? You may want to consider human biology courses. Of course you could have put that kitschy phrase in one post instead of doing 2 in a row, but maybe prolificacy is more important to you.

posted by: hawkeye | June 9, 2011  11:30pm

JonessAC12:  You take some biology courses about Gov. Malloy’s head, since it appears to “float your boat!”

posted by: ... | June 10, 2011  12:19am

...

Eh, what floats my boat is common sense and proper English smile.

posted by: ... | June 10, 2011  1:08am

...

Sorry,just disregard my comments hawkeye. It is getting off topic from the story at hand. We’ll certainly disagree on this topic more often than not, but I know there are issues to which we agree on as well.

posted by: Truth, Justice and Karma | June 10, 2011  2:10am

“Bullying” - The act of using superior power, strength or authority to intimidate a weaker person to make them do something. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says, “I’m not bullying anybody.” Malloy repeatedly said the past few weeks that he will lay off state workers if they are not quick to accept a massive concession deal offered just weeks ago, that is still lacking many important written details, was agreed to by our so-called union negotiators without any prior talks with SEBAC members to get their opinions, and contains many hard-to-accept terms. Many who have worked hard for over 10, 20, and 30 years are now being told they have a few weeks to accept a deal that will completely change require major life changes regarding their financial and retirement planning and health care coverage. If they refuse this offer, the Governor says that he will lay off 5,000 to 7,500 workers.  Sounds like a classic bullying. Do what I say or I will have to hurt you. 

If he is going to have any success, the Governor needs state workers possessing subject matter and professional expertise in the areas he seeks to improve state policies.  He and his commissioners are not going to do all of the work themselves.  Happy state workers will serve better than disgruntled and resentful ones. 

So, the only sane thing for the Governor to do at this point is to return to the bargaining table and offer a plan of temporary pay freezes, furloughs and no longevity payments for two years.  These quantifiable and certain savings plus the new found surplus money should address the current budget shortfall. Never try to change to the retirement age of current workers (at least not anyone with more than 10 years service!) or attempt to change health care coverage until there is a detailed complete proposal in writing. 

It would be a shame if the Governor laid off workers only to find out that among them were ones best suited to work on his new policy initiatives.

posted by: mollyanme | June 10, 2011  7:44am

Having worked for the state for 28+ years, I do not remember a time when open enrollment for health insurance was not held in May. If, as the governor keeps telling us, the consessions will not change our health care coverage(sustinet) why are we being told open enrollment will not be held until October, because they have to wait for the ratification. I think this is what keeps the state workers in a sense of disbelief regarding anything we are told. It reminds me of the way our president was able to get his health care reform passed, by secrecy, and back room deals, by excluding members of congress, and disregarding public opinion.

posted by: mollyanme | June 10, 2011  8:59am

correction to my earlier post. We always had open enrollment in May. I incorrectly typed not in May.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 10, 2011  10:00am

The biggest issue with the offer that employees will be voting on are the pension reforms.  These affect only Tier 2 and 2a members - and those penison tiers are not lucrative by any measure.  The issue is and has been Tier 1 which was replaced in 1984. 

Anyway, the largest block of voting members are those that can retire by 2017 and they will most certainly be voting no by a wide margin.

Malloy went after these savings in the wrong way - he could have gotten quite a few furlough days, but chose not to ask for them - he needs short term savings now, longer term reforms can wait until the next budget. 

As a result he will cost people their jobs.

HST

posted by: hawkeye | June 10, 2011  10:47am

JonessAC12:  Thanks for having the opportunity to “agree to disagree,” Jonessey.

posted by: NOW What? | June 10, 2011  10:04pm

STATE EMPLOYEES - If any of you are actually reading this stuff here, do your best to ignore it. Get the *facts* from the sources - the State and your union - then make up your *own* mind on how to vote. Try your best to ignore others’ attempts to influence you, as they do NOT necessarily have *your* best interests at heart.

posted by: perturbed | June 11, 2011  8:43am

perturbed

DrHunterSThompson, your concise and insightful comment bears repeating:

“The biggest issue with the offer that employees will be voting on are the pension reforms.  These affect only Tier 2 and 2a members - and those penison tiers are not lucrative by any measure.  The issue is and has been Tier 1 which was replaced in 1984.

Anyway, the largest block of voting members are those that can retire by 2017 and they will most certainly be voting no by a wide margin.

Malloy went after these savings in the wrong way - he could have gotten quite a few furlough days, but chose not to ask for them - he needs short term savings now, longer term reforms can wait until the next budget.

As a result he will cost people their jobs.

HST”

We all could go on for pages and not get to the heart of the matter so quickly.

The one clarification I’d like to offer though, is from something a union president told us. This person, who was at the negotiating table, divulged that it was actually the Malloy administration that originally proposed furloughs.

Your guess is as good as mine as to how we ended up here.

(And though it truly is only a guess—as the negotiations were super-ultra-top-secret—my guess is that SEBAC had some influence there.)

—perturbed

posted by: Frankly | June 11, 2011  9:37am

Hunter Thompson:  You are correct that the tier 2 pensions are lousy compared to the tier 1.  But the tier 1 folks are retired or soon to retire, and sometimes these concessions just can’t be perfect.  It doesn’t make sense to toss derail the basically quite excellent pension deal just because some tier 2 folk (I’m tier 2) are still annoyed that they didn’t hav the luck of the draw to be tier 1.  Tier 1 is over and fading out.  The baby boomers were lucky to be living at a time when the economy was very strong (because of strong unions and because corporations and wealthy individuals were taxed appropriately———not like now when it’s a winner-take-all and to-hell-with-everyone-else society put into effect with Reagan (and then helped by 12 years of Bush-ism).
Voting yes on the concessions helps all of us.  This is a package that any other state worker outside of CT and all private-industry workers would salivate at.  Livingston and our union heads have done a good job.  And I’m not shilling for them; I’m merely rank and file. Do you think the non-union administrators will treat you well if this concession deal doesn’t pass?  That will open a can of worms and a Pandora’s box of nightmares for all of us.

posted by: Chris M | June 13, 2011  11:59am

Attention State Employees- Vote NO on the contract.  It is all very hush, hush, but on excellent authority, there is a second contract in the works in the event of a no vote on the present SEBAC contract. This second contract would eliminate the controversial health benefits change with no layoffs.

At meetings throughout the state, unions are pushing for passage of SEBAC in its present form, by employing scare tactics and the threat of layoffs. But, behind the scenes it is a different story. In the face of unforseen opposition by the rank and file, the Governor and others secretly acknowledge that they may have gone too far. But, expect denials by union and government officials, because they have their own agendas.

Vote NO. When the second contract eliminates the health care provision, it will still be a “Win- Win” for all. The employees will not have to worry about a nebulous health care plan and layoffs and the state will still achieve its financial savings though increased contributions to the pension fund, raising the age of retirement, and concessions on raises and longevity. Remember there is strength in numbers.

posted by: NOW What? | June 13, 2011  8:57pm

Oh common, “Chris M” - “IIt is all very hush, hush, but on excellent authority, there is a second contract in the works…”?? Give us a BREAK, please… NOBODY believes that sort of nonsense - not even YOU. You sound like one of those “Nigerian general” email scammers phishing for a bank account number!