Christine Stuart photo

As the state prepares to deal with a projected $150 million budget deficit in 2009, Gov. M. Jodi Rell reached out to current and former state employees Tuesday to help balance the budget.

“We are always interested in finding ways to do our job better and at lower cost – but that is especially important these days, when state government is looking for savings at every turn,” Rell said Tuesday. “No one knows more about how state government works than the men and women on the front lines.”

Taking a play from former Gov. Lowell Weicker, who implemented a similar program in 1992, Rell will offer up to $1,000 cash rewards to current or retired state employees whose ideas are implemented by the state. The ideas submitted through the new Innovations Web site will be vetted by state agency heads, which has at least one state union crying foul.

While state employees are grateful Rell seems willing to listen, they’re not happy they’ve been left out of the review process to determine which ideas succeed and which fail.

Christine Stuart photo

Matt O’Connor, spokesman for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 said, “she listened, but unfortunately chose to create a new panel consisting solely of bureaucrats and kept full control on deciding which ideas merit an award to her staff.”

O’Connor said he thinks Rell is missing an opportunity to directly involve the state workforce in the decision making process. Regardless, O’Connor said state employees will participate in the program.

Award ceremonies for the program will be held every six months, with the first scheduled for January 2009. All of the ideas selected for recognition will be posted on the Innovations Web site. The deadline for innovations to be submitted for recognition in January is November 14, 2008.