State employees waited in suspense and with a sense of betrayal Monday evening as they prepared to hear from union leadership about what they’ll be asked to sacrifice. But a deal wasn’t reached and word never came before layoff notices went out Tuesday morning.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the man they helped elect to the governor’s office, is not only asking them to pay more in taxes, but he also is asking them to pony up $2 billion in savings and concessions. Without an imminent deal on the horizon, Malloy issued the first 4,742 layoff notices Tuesday morning after an all-night negotiating session.
Mark Lucey, a corrections lieutenant at Robinson Correctional Institution, said Monday that he took personal days during the campaign to make phone calls and door-knock on Malloy’s behalf.
“I feel betrayed more so than anything else,” Lucey said Monday evening. He equated the betrayal to walking in on a cheating spouse.
Lucey said his local was one of the unions to endorse Malloy during the primary against Ned Lamont, and during the fall he lost count of phone calls he made.
At the moment there’s a lot of curiosity about what union negotiators are discussing in the closed-door session, Lucey said, adding that there also is a lot of concern among junior members of the bargaining group who don’t know whether they will be laid off or transferred.
Lucey said the most frustrating thing at the moment are the news reports about state employees making six-figure salaries. He said that’s not typical for state employees and his bargaining group makes on average somewhere in the mid-40s.
Administration officials said including overtime the average salary and benefit package for Lucey’s bargaining unit is $81,000.
While Lucey maintained that state employees are willing to step up and pay their fair share, he contends that they are being asked to do more than the average taxpayer. He said many of the $2.6 billion in tax increases over the next two years also will be paid by members of his local who also are being asked to give up benefits and wage increases.
Alfredo Camargo, a medicolegal death investigator in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said Malloy’s request for $2 billion in concessions is unrealistic.
“Not only are we state employees, but we’re consumers and taxpayers,” Camargo said Monday. “It’s the double-whammy effect.”
He said state employees support structural changes to state government. Several state employees spoke at Malloy’s town hall meetings about the need to reduce the levels of non-union management within state agencies.
Malloy admits there are nine layers of management between the top person at a state agency and the rest of the state employees. He has said these layers are addressed in part with the consolidation of 81 agencies to 57. He also has said they go even further in the second year of the budget.
But Camargo said he doesn’t see that. He said those “gimmicks,” lead us to believe he’s not serious about shrinking the size of state government, and asking state employees to give up $2 billion and pay more in taxes is “a burden on the lower half of the economic scale.”
He said the increases in taxes on the middle class in addition to the labor concessions makes the entire process very “frustrating.” He said wealthier residents and corporations should be asked to pay more.
As for Malloy’s ‘Plan B’ budget, Camargo worries about the proposal since five of the 15 members in his department may be eliminated. He said not only do they go investigate bodies at more than 1,500 crime scenes per year in addition to examining another 1,500 bodies from crime scenes that come to the lab, they also are tasked by statute with looking at another 12,000 bodies at funeral homes before they’re cremated.
“This clearly threatens our ability to respond to death scenes,” Camargo said.
Roy Occhigrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said Tuesday morning that from the very beginning of the process, the governor has said he is trying to “build a system that’s sustainable. This one is not.”
Occhigrosso said that given the spending cuts and tax increases, Malloy doesn’t think it’s unreasonable to ask more of state employees. In the absence of an agreement, spending cuts will need to be made.
In his statement Tuesday morning, Malloy reiterated his refrain not to increase taxes more than he agreed to in the budget he signed into law last week.
“We need to cut an additional $1 billion in spending in order to balance the budget in each year of the biennium, because I refuse to raise taxes beyond what has already been agreed to,” Malloy said.