RELL, UNIONS READY FOR BUDGET BATTLE

Note: There will be no Shad tomorrow. In baseball terms, it’s a travel day.

Right now, all we have are comments to the press and nasty letters back and forth. If and when the two sides sit down to negotiate, we could have the most adversarial relationship since the days of John Rowland.

Governor Rell had sent union leaders a proposal for givebacks and concessions to help balance the state budget which is more than $500 million in deficit now and predicted to be some $3.5 billion out of whack in a couple of years. What the governor asked for, according to the Hartford Courant included an end to the state pension plan for any new employees hired after July 1. Those employees would be placed into a 401 (k) – type plan with the employee contributing 5 % and the state matching it in a plan similar to the private sector. Rell also wanted to increase the health insurance contributions by state employees by 10 % on July 1.
Rell also wanted to increase the prescription drug co-pays to $10 for generic, $25 for brand-name drugs on the preferred list, and $40 for non-formulary drugs in a manner similar to the rates in the private sector.

But it would be a mistake to tack on “this, in addition to concessions already gained by the governor” because the last round of “concessions” was really a joke. All the governor got was an agreement to delay inevitable payments, etc. So the state really only put off today’s problems until tomorrow.

This latest appeal by the governor to the unions for concessions contains real concessions. Hence, the unions’ rather nasty and personal response which, in a letter to the governor, includes, “Today, you are pandering to the partisan politics of the gubernatorial campaign in making proposals that show a cynical disrespect not just for Connecticut’s 45,000 public service workers but for all of Connecticut’s struggling working families while we will not dignify your letter and proposals with a point-by-point reply…

“And in a cynical effort to distract the public from your constant choice of the 5 percent who are super rich over the 95 percent who are suffering, you make proposals to us which you know perfectly well are insulting and completely unacceptable, no doubt just so you can try to scapegoat public service workers for refusing them.” Pretty nasty stuff.
The unions added, “Scapegoating which masquerades for leadership is exactly what the people of Connecticut don’t need in the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression.” Wouldn’t you like to be at the table (probably one of those breakaway ones they use in Linda McMahon’s trade) when the two sides meet?

Vice President Joe Biden who is known for his candor and colorful remarks, outdid himself when introducing the president after the victory in the Health Care Reform vote. What Biden thought was a private comment, was picked up by microphones and cameras. It wasn’t said in a nasty way, in fact, quite the opposite. That’s quite a ways from our last vice president who directed his f-bomb personally and directly to Sen. Leahey of Vermont. But this is a family-oriented blog so if you’re 18 or older and really need to know what Biden said: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/sns-ap-us-health-care-bidens-profanity,0,5955113.story . I had to listen to it twice to understand what he said. What is it with our vice presidents and their language?
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A state legislative staffer and chairman of the Mansfield Democratic Town Committee is running for the state House seat being vacated by Denise Merrill, former majority leader and now candidate for secretary of state.

Greg Haddad is the assistant chief of staff and director of legislative services for the state Senate Democrats. Affable and certainly knowledgeable of how the legislature works, The Shad thinks Haddad can hit the ground running like few others and certainly dwarfs in experience the other Democrat who has announced for the seat, UConn political science student Brien Buckman. The Shad worked with Haddad for a number of years at the Senate Dems. Haddad is also deputy mayor of Mansfield, the House seat he seeks covers Mansfield and Chaplin.
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The president and board chairman of the Connecticut Humane Society is out. Richard Johnston has resigned his positions after 24 years with the organization. Johnston has been at the center of controversy recently. A group of former employees and animal activists called the Coalition for Change say Johnston has refused to address complaints about animal care and working conditions.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal opened an investigation in January into alleged misuse of money at the society. Meanwhile, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration later fined the organization $6,800 for workplace violations.

(For the record, Zamboni is in favor of any move that secures the welfare of animals or helps their adoption into a loving family—or one specific buddy.)