The fierce winter weather has delayed his talks with the state’s coalition of labor unions and with his Feb. 16 budget deadline fast approaching, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy seemed anxious to get them to the table.
“For Connecticut to move beyond its current economic crisis, its budgetary crisis, we’re going to need to make headway with our employees on returning to a sustainable system of compensation and benefit allocation,” Malloy said Wednesday.
Not known for his patience, not once did Malloy utter the word concession during a press conference outside his Capitol office. But he did say he’d like to see some progress made.
“Have we opened up lines of communication? The answer is yes. Will our budget assume a level of success in that regard? The answer is yes,” said Malloy.
Malloy, who has been critical of the deal labor unions made with former Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2009, said on the campaign trail that he wants to hear the union’s cost-saving proposals before he even thinks about opening negotiations and formally asking for concessions.
“It’s pretty evident we have to make some progress with all of the component parts of government, certainly our employee base is part of it,” Malloy said.
The unions, many of whom supported Malloy during his campaign, are somewhat sympathetic to Malloy’s predicament.
“Turning around two decades of financial and operational mismanagement at the top of state government is not easy,“ Larry Dorman, spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said in an emailed statement.
But the labor unions are not anxious to get back to the bargaining table anytime soon and it was still unclear Wednesday if Malloy will ask them for wage and benefit concessions as part of his first budget proposal.
“Our focus is to work with the administration so that the ideas of front-line public service workers are part of the process,“ Dorman said. “As always, we intend to be part of the solution to getting the state’s economy back on track.”
The countdown on Malloy’s budget proposal is ticking and Malloy said he needs to hear about proposals that will “bear fruit right away.”
Last week Malloy said he’s already looking at cutting close to $2 billion from the current services budget because he refuses to spend more than this fiscal year. That leaves about another $1 billion he will have to raise in taxes if he wants to close the $3.67 billion estimated budget deficit.
Starting with spending and programmatic cuts in crafting his budget, Malloy said Wednesday that he has started to look at the revenue side of the budget. However, he wasn’t prepared to talk about whether that means increasing taxes or eliminating tax exemptions or credits.
In addition to cutting about $2 billion from the current budget, Malloy has also said he won’t offer an early retirement to state employees, he won’t borrow to cover operating expenses, and he will fully fund the state’s pension obligations.