Gov. Dannel Malloy, now facing the challenge of finding $1.6 billion to fill the gaping hole in the approved budget, will likely get additional budget-cutting authority but no substantial power to cut aid to cities and towns, if any at all.
State Sen. Marty Looney, the influential Democratic Majority Leader from New Haven, says there is no appetite in the legislature to let the governor slash state aid to municipalities. “I have no objection in principle to giving the governor additional rescission [cutting] authority, but municipal aid should be exempt or if allowed, only at a very smaller amount,” Looney told The Hanging Shad.
Meanwhile, other budget-union-legislature developments (get that scorecard ready):
• The leaders of the state employee bargaining coalition officially postponed rejecting the concessions deal. They couldn’t decide how long the delay was for or what they would do in the meantime—clueless.
• The Malloy administration didn’t know what the delay meant, when or if layoff notices would go out or how many people might have to be let go—also clueless.
Sen. Looney also ruled out any additional taxes to make up the gap, even at the highest end of the income spectrum. “Absolutely not…no way. The governor has already made it very clear he will not increases taxes beyond what’s already been approved,” he said. Summing up the entire state budget situation, Looney said, “It’s a real mess.”
Malloy was expecting—or at least hoping—that the $1.6 million in savings would come from the concessions deal reached with state employee labor unions. But labor rank and file rejected the deal provoking howls of protest from lawmakers (even longtime labor supporters), newspaper editorial boards and the general public.
“There is a real sense of disappointment at the rejection of the [concessions] deal because most everyone thought it to be reasonable and moderate,” Looney said. “The fact that they rejected it is infuriating.”
So what does the General Assembly do now? Looney says it’s possible that the legislature would agree to increase Malloy’s unilateral, budget-cutting authority from 5- to 10-percent but exempt municipal aid. He said then Gov. John Rowland was granted similar authority in 2003.
To make matters worse, Looney said, some union contracts require that workers get notices of layoffs of up to eight weeks. “That means some can’t affect until September, meaning more employees would have to be laid off to make up for the lost savings,” he said. In other words, the longer the delay in layoffs, the more that will be needed.