The layoff notices are going out. The governor released a War and Peace-length statement on how he doesn’t want to layoff anyone or cut further but that he has no choice. And labor unions say Gov. Malloy’s “Plan B”—eventually more than 5,000 layoffs and an additional $600 million or so in cuts—is unfathomable. The situation is nothing short of dreadful but if the state employee labor unions are hoping that the legislature will bail them out and stop the layoffs, they better think again.
Malloy is supposed to submit to the legislature by May 31st his plan to fill the $2 billion hole in the approved budget that was originally to be filled with labor concessions. The legislature may (but is not required to) approve or tweak the plan by the end of the session according to language in the approved spending plan. However, a Capitol insider close to the situation tells The Hanging Shad the vast majority of the legislature does not have labor as its priority. “It’s [the layoff plan] for real. I don’t think labor has the support in the legislature—outside of the speaker [of the house Chris Donovan]—to fight off the layoffs,” said the source. “The legislature is more concerned with the cuts to municipal aid and whole program eliminations than the state employees. If it becomes a battle to save the employees or save money for hometowns and for programs, the state employees lose and lose in a big way,” the source said.
The potential cuts are in fact, devastating and lawmakers are already indicating they can’t imagine the state operating properly with them. Asked earlier this week if the cuts would shred the state’s safety net for the most vulnerable, state Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney (D-New Haven) said, “Absolutely.” Gov. Malloy said from the very beginning of his campaign that he wouldn’t let that happen. Now it appears to be happening.
“This Plan B takes my breath away,” state Senator and labor committee chair Edith Prague (D-Columbia) told the Hartford Courant. “It’s so unbelievable what it would do to the state of Connecticut. I can’t believe these cuts. This is the worst I have seen.”
The question now is, what will the legislature do about it? Is it possible lawmakers will propose further taxes rather than accept draconian cuts? Malloy has promised not to raise taxes any more than what’s in the budget that passed. But the legislature never made such a pledge. Drama on that point is still to come.
Malloy himself, in an unusually lengthy and at times redundant statement announced the layoffs. “I want to be clear that this is not the road I wanted to go down. I didn’t want to lay people off, and I didn’t want to make additional spending cuts beyond the $780 million in spending we’ve already cut…But I have no choice. I promised the people of Connecticut that I would change the way we do business in Hartford. I promised to deliver a budget that is balanced with no gimmicks, and I will…My preference is to do that by asking everyone to share in the sacrifice, including my fellow state employees…The savings we are seeking to achieve with our state workforce are predicated on two principles: we need to achieve the short-term savings necessary to balance this budget, and we need long-term, structural savings in order to make state government sustainable. To do so, I am attempting to bring the benefits enjoyed by state employees –wages, healthcare, and pension benefits—more in line with those enjoyed by their counterparts in the private sector and in the federal workforce.
“The state employee representatives have thus far not offered enough…I want to say to the people of Connecticut, again, that this is not the road I want to go down. But I simply refuse to dig us into a deeper hole.”
The budget story is far from over with many elements still in play.