Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told municipal leaders Thursday he remains optimistic that state employee unions will ratify the labor agreement negotiated with his administration, saying the vote seemed “to be moving in the right direction.”
The governor said most of the unions so far have voted to support it, but he acknowledged a few have not. Sources confirmed that members of Local 749, which represents various Judicial Branch employees, voted to reject the deal.
There is a lot riding on the agreement’s acceptance for both the governor and the group of municipal leaders he spoke to at the annual Connecticut Conference of Municipalities meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell.
Since its passage, Malloy has touted the state’s budget as not being balanced on the backs of cities and towns. And the group of town managers, first selectmen, and mayors applauded him for that Thursday.
But if unions reject the $1.6 billion two-year concession package, Malloy and the General Assembly will have to head back to the drawing board to find the money in other places. The governor has indicated that many of those funds will come from laying off up to 7,500 state employees.
On several occasions he has estimated those layoffs could number up to 7,500 workers. Union leaders have called that threat a distraction that does not help to get the agreement passed, but Malloy cited the figure again speaking to town leaders.
“Many of you are probably asking what if they don’t approve it. Well I’ll tell you. We’ll begin making layoffs pretty quickly and I would expect that number to grow on the state side over two years to be about 7,500 employees,” he said.
But layoffs alone will not be enough to close the gap left in the budget, and municipal leaders are now wondering if cuts will be required to municipal aid after all. Malloy acknowledged this to be the case.
“I should take this on before I take any questions — I know there’s a lot of angst about what we’re going to do with respect to this agreement [if it is not passed by unions],” he said.
He said he would keep municipalities in mind in the event that he were required to balance the budget through other means. But he wasn’t making any promises.
“A lot of it will depend on where we are, what we are, what our notification requirements are and how much money we need to find beyond the severance of our employees,” he said.
Simsbury First Selectwoman and newly-elected CCM President Mary A. Glassman said the problem of the agreement failing runs deeper than cuts to municipal aid. Unemployment likely will rise in her town, she said, as a result of layoffs. Home foreclosures likely will go up because people have less money to pay their bills, she said.
“We’re looking at a serious ripple effect if this budget doesn’t pass,” she said.
Glassman, Malloy’s 2006 running mate, said the deal the state employee unions are currently voting upon seems quite generous in comparison with the concessions reached with Simsbury municipal employees. Under the agreement, state workers would have their salaries frozen for two years followed by a 3 percent raise each of the next three years. She said her employees have had zero raises for the last four years, she said.
Simsbury already is bracing for the other shoe to drop in case the agreement is rejected and state funding is cut, she said. But she said she’s accustomed to hedging her bets by underestimating revenue.
“We’re used to the state being unreliable,” she said.
In order for the agreement to be adopted, 14 of 15 unions, or 80 percent of those voting, will need to ratify it. The voting process will continue until June 24.