With layoff notices delayed an additional day, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he remains “hopeful” a deal will be reached to obtain the $2 billion in labor savings and concessions he needs to balance the budget he signed into law last week.
“At some point we gotta get going, but I thought it was appropriate to give a little more time to see whether we could get an agreement,” Malloy said Monday following a celebration of two government contracts for engines at Pratt and Whitney.
But he admitted “there’s not a lot of time before we have to start to do things.”
Some of those things include laying off more than 4,700 state employees and cutting $545 million from this year’s budget.
Asked how long the talks can drag on, “That six week notification group is coming up pretty quickly,” Malloy said referring to employees that require six weeks termination notification as dictated by their labor contracts.
But he said it’s not his decision regarding the timing of layoff notices. He’s left that up to his negotiators to decide.
“These things are very difficult to bring about, systemic structural change is a very difficult thing to do and I have repeatedly attempted to evidence that I understand how difficult it is,” Malloy said. “We’ve also asked the taxpayers to pay additional taxes. We’ve also on a programmatic basis cut $760 million from the budget.”
State agencies and employees have been looking at the alternative budget Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes released Friday and are doing the calculations trying to figure out whom will be laid-off if the unions don’t ratify an agreement.
“The list is terrible,” Malloy said. “Many of those things I rejected doing in coming up with this budget.”
However, possibly in order to get an upper hand in negotiations, $1.67 billion in spending reduction options were released last week. But it may not have had the impact the Malloy administration was hoping for and may have only increased the desire of rank and file union members to reject a deal.
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said the plan put out on Friday is constantly changing. He said agency heads are offering up spending cuts as substitutes for others in the document and it’s possible line items not listed in the plan will become part of the alternative.
“It’s only a framework,” Occhiogrosso said Monday.
Leadership of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition is meeting to discuss what’s going on in negotiations with the Malloy administration. But it’s unclear exactly where either side is drawing a line since both sides have refused to negotiate a deal through the media. Any agreement reached by SEBAC leadership would still need to be ratified by most of the 15 unions, and 34 bargaining groups that are part of the coalition.