Gov. Malloy: Concessions would stop 'thousands' of layoffs
$40.1B partial budget: Governor warns of massive layoffs, cuts if give-backs not made
Updated 4:19 pm, Thursday, May 5, 2011
HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a partial $40.1 billion budget into law Wednesday that includes sweeping tax hikes, even as his budget chief ordered state agency heads and commissioners to prepare for massive layoffs and program cuts if unions do not soon agree to concessions.
"I'm not in a position to guarantee success at this point or at any point, but I have made it quite clear that this is the framework that we would prefer by the votes in the negotiations that developed this budget," Malloy said. "I've made it clear that if we must go in a different direction we shall, but I will do everything in my power to reach reasonable agreements with the work force of the state of Connecticut."
Flanked by 10 Democratic leaders, Malloy briefly commemorated his legislative victory behind a desk in an ornate Capitol meeting room where he signed the bill, which would set higher rates on sales and income-taxes and maintain most social service spending.
He then told reporters that if employee unions balk at $2 billion in requested concessions and savings, the landscape of state government would change far beyond the budget that was pushed through the Senate 19-17 early Tuesday and the House in a late-night 83-67 vote.
Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said it's the earliest date ever that a state budget has been passed. Malloy said that plans are under way for more than 4,000 layoffs, which would save about $400 million a year, plus extensive programming cuts.
Layoff notices could go out as soon as Friday, as required by some bargaining agreements. "We have employees who need eight weeks notice, six weeks notice and two weeks notice," Malloy said.
"My administration is working hard with the remaining parties, that is our fellow state employees," Malloy said. "We continue to be at the table, having discussions on how we might resolve those remaining issues that stand between us right now in the full implementation of this framework."
Malloy rejected the use of a projected billion-dollar surplus built into the budget, for use beyond paying down debt and other long-term obligations.
At around the time of the news conference, Benjamin Barnes, Malloy's secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, was meeting top agency heads at UConn's football stadium, Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Barnes told the administrators to be aware of the potential seriousness of the budget alternatives and that they were responsible for possibly major additional spending and personnel cuts if state employees fail to agree to a concession package.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for the coalition of 13 major state bargaining units that represent about 43,000 state employees, said Wednesday he's not sure how many employees may get layoff notices from the governor this week.
"We're as in the dark as anyone," Dorman said, noting that contracts require varying degrees of possible layoff notice prior to the start of the next fiscal year July 1. Closed-door talks between Malloy aides and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition began nine weeks ago today, and no progress has been reported beyond statements that discussions continue.
Dorman said that during the last couple of weeks, as Malloy and legislative Democratic leaders drew nearer to an agreement, the unions had remained focused in the talks.
"No people or no forces can put any greater pressure on us than ourselves, because we want to do something for everyone," Dorman said. "We're working very, very hard so we can protect public services and avoid occurrences that would be disruptive to the economy, such as mass layoff. Layoffs could be permanently disruptive to (the) middle class. Obviously we take this seriously. The piece we can control is our discussion with the administration."
In reaction to the budget signing, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney stressed that the budget is still out of balance by $2 billion. State law requires balanced tax and spending packages.
"With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Malloy has signed into law the most expensive budget and most expansive tax increase in Connecticut history," McKinney said in a statement. "Democrats boast of passing a budget in record time, but the speed with which this budget was passed is not a cause for celebration. It is rather testament to how partisan and uncompromising this process has been."
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. called the Democratic budget "a sad commentary" compared to a budget GOP lawmakers offered during floor debates that would not have raised taxes but focused on reduced spending.
"Today Connecticut has a clear view of how Democrats deal with our fiscal crisis: raise massive amounts of taxes, on income, property, sales and businesses, and continue to spend to support bigger government," Cafero said in a statement. "Republicans showed we can close our deficit without raising a nickel in new taxes on anyone.''