HARTFORD -- Nearly 5,000 state employees became the bargaining chips Tuesday in the concession talks aimed at solving Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's $2 billion budget problem.

As the first round of employees were informed by their supervisors that they might lose their jobs July 1, Malloy and representatives of the 43,000 unionized workers stressed that they are still at the bargaining table.

"The governor's Plan B proposal paints a bleak picture for Connecticut," said Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, who led the effort last week to approve a two-year, $40.1 billion budget predicated on $1 billion a year in union givebacks and other savings.

"I ask Gov. Malloy and the leadership of the state employee unions to stay at the negotiating table and get the job done," Donovan said.

Malloy did not make himself available for comment on Tuesday, but Roy Occhiogrosso, his senior adviser, told reporters in the Capitol that the layoff notices would be rolled out over days and weeks.

"You can characterize it as a significant number of people are being notified today," Occhiogrosso said. "More will be notified tomorrow and the day after and the day after that until we reach an agreement."

Depending on their contracts, union members have to receive a certain amount of notice before the start of the fiscal year July 1. Most are being informed face-to-face, while others will receive notices though certified mail, the governor's staff said.

A deal with the State Employees Bargaining Unit, representing 15 unions, would rescind the layoffs if an agreement is reached before May 30, when Malloy would be required to go to the General Assembly for approval of his "Plan B" budget. That plan closes state agencies and DMV offices, increases caseloads for social workers, and reduces tens of millions of dollars in state aid to towns and cities.

The governor ordered the layoff notices, said Occhiogrosso, because he wasn't happy with the state of discussions between his budget office and SEBAC. Malloy had originally planned to begin the layoff-notification process last week, but then postponed it for a few days.

More Information

'Plan B' highlights Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's alternate plan if union concessions aren't reached calls for $1.67 billion in statewide reductions. Here are some areas affected: Eliminate the State Library ($9 million) End grants to municipalities from the Indian casinos ($61 million) Close the Local Mental Health Authority in Danbury ($2.1 million) Increase the caseload for child-protection workers Reduce funding at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport ($35,000) Reduce statewide school breakfast program ($163,000) Close seven rest areas Terminate 470 employees in state courts; 47 DMV employees, resulting in closed branches; 188 in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Close the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, eliminating all 80 jobs Close Stamford, New Haven, Norwich and Middletown Workers' Compensation District Offices Ten percent reduction for Stamford Center for the Arts, Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk, Maritime Center Authority in Norwalk Source: Office of Policy and Management

"I think ... he has the sense not enough progress had been made to warrant delaying another day or two and felt it was important to begin this process in an orderly fashion," Occhiogrosso said. "He is very aware of the impact that this is having on people's lives. He is concerned. He would very much like to reach a deal, but he is absolutely resolved to produce a balanced budget with no gimmicks and taxes will not rise beyond what they have already been."

In all, 4,742 employees have been targeted, and some entire programs face elimination.

Layoffs would save about $455 million, with an additional $545 in programming cuts and more job terminations. Malloy and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate last week approved record sales and income tax increases, along with other revenue hikes totaling $2.6 billion over the biennium. About $760 million in spending was reduced.

Matt O'Connor, spokesman for SEBAC, told reporters in the Capitol parking lot Tuesday afternoon that the coalition is continuing discussions with Malloy's team. He declined to characterize individual issues, citing an agreement nearly 10 weeks ago, at the start of talks, to a news blackout.

"It's understandable that folks want to know what's being discussed, but again, I think that our leaders, the administration, agreed that in order to come to a mutual resolution, we have to respect those ground rules," O'Connor said, adding that individual unions members would be voting on any agreements.

Malloy has asked for givebacks on a variety of issues including higher health insurance co-payments, more unpaid furlough days, and a change in pension contributions.

"Certainly, there will be a time and a place to get those details out, but we're not there," O'Connor said. "The administration had, as of last night, indicated they were prepared to continue talks. Leaders of our union coalition said very firmly we're going to keep talking until we reach mutual agreement."

O'Connor conceded that rank-and-file employees are mostly unaware of details being discussed.

"The more-important point is that the members of our unions are part of the broader working middle-class in this state and they're concerned about the economy, not only as it affects them and their families, but everyone here in Connecticut," he said. "Our leaders remain committed. They are very dedicated to reaching a mutual settlement."