Unions Strike Down Concessions Deal Integral to Connecticut Budget
Vote leaves Governor Malloy eyeing thousands of layoffs to balance budget
A union vote on Friday scuttled a labor-concessions package that the governor was counting on to balance a two-year state budget, setting the stage for cuts that could include thousands of layoffs.
The last remaining union local representing prison workers blocked ratification of the labor-savings package, acording to results released by Larry Dorman, a spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.
Anticipating the worst, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had called state lawmakers back for a special session next week to vote on a revised budget even before the union vote became official. He has said that as many as 7,500 layoffs could be necessary, as wel as cuts in state aid to cities and towns.
"I've got a big job to do and we're going to do it," Malloy said Friday after the results were announced.
In a meeting with mayors of the state's largest cities, he said most of the likely cuts in state aid to cities and towns would come in the second year of the budget.
"I will do everything in my power to avoid serious and devastating cuts to local governments" in the first year, said Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford.
The deal with unionized state workers would have made changes to current and future workers' wages, health care and retirement benefits. It also included the promise of no layoffs for four years, three years of wage increases following a two-year freeze and the continuation of coveted benefits such as pensions, retiree health care and longevity bonuses.
Many of the states 45,00 unionized workers were leery of the deal, with some saying they wanted promises that big businesses and wealthy taxpayers would be asked to pay more if they agreed to givebacks.
The structure of the union voting set a high bar for ratifcation, with only two of the 15 unions needed for defeat. A union representing maintenance and service workers also voted against it, and the vote tally released Friday for AFSCME Council 4 sealed its fate. At least eleven other unions voted in favor of the deal.
The general Assembly has already approved the budget and counted on $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years to balance the state's books amid a $3.3 bilion deficit, beginning July 1. The two-year, $40.1 billion budget raises taxes by $1.4 billion in the first year and $1.2 billion in the second.
Malloy said he expects to release his so-called Plan B budget on Monday. The new Democratic governor said he wants lawmakers to return to the Capitol on June 30, the final day of the fiscal year, to vote on the revised budget plan and to expand his budget-cutting authority.
Rejection of the labor deal is the latest political blow to Malloy, whose popularity has suffered because of his approach to solving the budget deficit. A Quinnipiac University Poll released last week shows that 38 percent of voters said they approve of the job Malloy is doing as governor while 44 percent disapprove.