BREAKING MEDIA BLACKOUT, MALLOY, UNIONS DIG IN; STATE AID TO CITIES AND TOWNS AT RISK?

Shad TV: Two segments this morning on NBC-Connecticut with Brad Drazen; two segments on FOX Morning News with Logan Byrnes.  I was joined in the latter two by state Sen. Joe Markley (R-Southington) and state House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).  Check out the first FOX segment

Since the very beginning of the negotiations between the administration of Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state employee unions, both sides have abided by a media blackout—the talks were being held in private. But as deadlines loom, both sides are opening up and it’s looking more and more like there will be no deal on the $2 billion in concessions Malloy is seeking.

The administration has said all along it is hopeful a deal can be reached. But it is also contractually obligated to prepare for layoffs by sending out pink slips Friday (see letter that would go out). Wednesday, Malloy tipped his hand a bit. First, in his statement after the state House of Representatives completed legislative approval of the budget—with the $2 billion hole in it—Malloy ended with “…Now it’s up to my Administration to reach an agreement with our fellow state employees and to present it to the legislature for ratification. I remain hopeful that we’ll get there. If we don’t, I remain committed to presenting an alternative budget to the General Assembly in the next couple of weeks.”

Malloy followed that up with, for the first time, putting a number on the amount of state employees who could be shown the door. The governor said “more than 4,000” state employees could be affected. “The budget will be balanced, one way or another,” he said. And in a sentence that should send shivers through the leaders of cities and towns in the state, when Malloy was asked if aid to cities and towns could be cut if no union deal is in place he said, “Everything is on the table.”

Union spokesman Larry Dorman, one of the more honest and professional spokesmen in the business, was also blunt. “It’s not fair or realistic to expect middle-class people who happen to work for the state to each cut $22,000 a year from our family annual budgets. Especially when we, like all middle-class families, are already paying 10 percent of our income in state and local taxes, while millionaires are only paying 5 percent of their income and some of our largest corporations are paying little or no taxes at all,” said Dorman, the chief spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC). He said he arrived at the number by dividing the $1 billion in concessions by about 45,000 unionized employees.

Dorman also said Malloy’s alternative plans are not acceptable. “SEBAC leadership is actively engaged in discussions with the Malloy administration to identify mutually agreeable and fair solutions that will get Connecticut’s economy moving for everyone and help rebuild the middle class,” he said. “Connecticut cannot afford a ‘Plan B’ filled with layoffs, cuts in vital public services and cuts in aid to towns and cities that would only make things worse for everyone. We will continue to do whatever we can to be part of a fair solution.”

In another case of staking out their ground, Malloy senior advisor Roy Occhiogrosso seemed to indicate there was going to be a deal for the $2 billion in concessions or not—no middle ground. “I think at some point there’s either a deal or there’s no deal and no chance of getting one,” Occhiogrosso said.

Meanwhile, Malloy budget chief Ben Barnes summoned all state commissioners and their financial experts to one of Rentschler Field’s meeting spaces to discuss “Plan B,” the layoffs that would come with them and all related issues. Because there were personnel issues being discussed, the media was not allowed in.

And oh, Malloy signed the budget with the gaping hole in it yesterday.

For the first time, there are now deadlines involved. According to language in the budget that was approved, Malloy has until May 31st to submit a plan to fill the $2 billion hole—whether it be with union concessions, with layoffs and cuts, or a combination of the two. Then, the General Assembly has until June 8th—the end of the session—to tweak it or come up with its own plan.

The bottom line: The budget may be passed and signed but the real drama is still to come.