Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget chief Benjamin Barnes this week sent out two notices that gave us a peek into what the governor’s “alternate budget” might look like. One memo told agency heads to plan for a 10-percent cut in each of their budgets. A second directive instructed commissioners to prepare a contingency for layoffs. The state is heading for a Malloy administration – state employee unions showdown.
Make no mistake, the Malloy folks knew full well the memos would get extensive coverage in the media. That’s exactly what they wanted. Given their ability to keep certain administration appointments quiet before their announcements, it’s pretty clear they could have quietly told their team to make back-up plans and told them to keep it hush-hush. But then the rank and file union members wouldn’t know what may be in store for them should their leadership fail to reach an agreement with the administration.
Malloy’s resolve to see his budget proposal pass the legislature without substantial changes has only strengthen through his series of town hall meetings which are wrapping up soon. He has weathered the storm of criticism from activists, labor and average citizens; comparisons to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and he still believes his is the best way to solve the budget crisis.
With time quietly slipping away for Malloy’s timetable of an early-May passage of his budget, the showdown with state employee unions looms large. It may very well boil down to this: If labor doesn’t agree to concessions to the degree Malloy needs or wants, there will be large-scale layoffs. At that point, the “brotherhood” of labor will be challenged. Will they allow their brothers and sisters to be laid off on a large scale basis or will they agree to take a big collective hit to keep jobs?