The Senate approved a package of state employee concessions Friday afternoon that will save the state about $700 million and help close the estimated $8.7 billion budget deficit.
The Senate voted 32 to 3 in favor of the package, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives Friday morning as lawmakers worked through the night on language regarding a similar package for the state’s non-union employees.
The package endorsed by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition last week includes wage freezes, higher health insurance premiums, seven unpaid furlough days and a retirement incentive for workers over the age of 55. It also includes a two-year no layoff provision for 29 of the 31 bargaining units which agreed to the package.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, said he wasn’t sure if he was going to vote for the package because it included a no layoff provision. He said if the state can’t layoff any workers for the next two years and it still has to find spending cuts to balance the budget then Medicaid programs and grants to cities and towns are going to get cut.
The results of this could be “disastrous,” Meyer said. “I think it’s bizarre the governor would agree to this. I think she’s driving us to tax increases by not letting us lay anyone off.”
Meyer said he ultimately voted in favor of the package because its gives the state $700 million to help mitigate the budget deficit.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the true size of the deficit will require much more. He said he will take the $700 million in concessions “knowing there’s more to do.”
Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, who voted against the package, said this package takes 30 percent of the entire Connecticut budget off the table for the next two years. In addition he said requiring all 50,000 unionized state workers to take the day off before the end of next week will create a huge problem for delivery of public services.
About an hour after Witkos uttered those words, the Department of Motor Vehicles released a statement saying all offices will be closed 3 p.m. Thursday, May 21 to 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26. “The closing combines both the holiday observance of Memorial Day, the unpaid furlough time required of all state employees and regular weekend shutdown of DMV offices,” the press release says.
Moments after the Senate vote Friday Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who helped negotiate the agreement with the state union’s, sent out a state saying, “I appreciate the Legislature’s actions in approving the agreement that I negotiated with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition.”
“The budget savings will not only be immediate, but will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings in the future as state employees pay a greater share of health insurance and pension costs and make higher co-payments for prescriptions, among other concessions,” Rell said.