With two of the 15 state employee unions rejecting the $1.6 billion savings and concession package, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made it clear Friday that he wants the legislature to give him the authority to cut $1.6 billion from the two-year, $40.11 billion state budget.
Malloy called a special session of the legislature Thursday to give him the rescission authority he initially requested in February, and said he will take it upon himself to make the $1.6 billion in cuts necessary to balance the budget before July 1.
Those cuts may include municipal aid, but Malloy said he will do what he can to avoid that.
“I will do everything in my ability to avoid and/or minimize adjustments in the first year of the biennium,” Malloy told the mayors of five big cities Friday.
Currently, the governor has the authority to cut 5 percent of any appropriation and 3 percent of any fund in a financial crisis without legislative approval. Malloy asked the legislature to increase the threshold to 10 percent of any appropriation and five percent of any fund. Further, Malloy asked the legislature to allow him to cut municipal aid without legislative approval.
Democratic leaders denied him the increased rescission authority during the legislative session.
“I’m hopeful,“ said Malloy. “I think the best way to reassure the marketplace about Connecticut’s earnest drive to balance its budget would be to give me that authority.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, continued to refuse to comment on Malloy’s request for more recessionary authority.
“We support the governor’s call to action and will work with him to ensure that Connecticut has a balanced budget,” Williams said Friday in a statement.
In 2009, when former Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked for expanded rescission authority as part of a budget mitigation package, Williams said “We should not be giving away our power as a co-equal branch of government.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Friday that he has a “broad caucus” and he still needs to talk to people before opining on the governor’s request for expanded rescission authority. He said his caucus is certainly worried about funding for cities and towns.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said the mayors asked for the meeting with the governor Friday to ask him to preserve municipal aid. Malloy has promised to do that to the best of his ability, at least in the first year of the budget.
“At this moment the governor has been pretty supportive of cities and towns,” DeStefano said. “Even his comments today about protecting people that live in cities, in the first year, I find good.”
Since the tax bills in New Haven and other cities and towns have already been mailed, DeStefano said municipal aid cuts would leaves cities and towns with a number of bad choices for other public employee unions in the state.
What DeStefano and others can’t believe is that a “majority of workers can vote for something and it gets defeated.”
“We also don’t understand the system where a majority of workers vote for an outcome … and a majority is held up by minority rule. I think that’s something union leadership needs to think about,” DeStefano said.
The two spokesmen for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said Friday that 60 percent of its overall membership approved the deal as of Friday afternoon, even though that wasn’t enough to pass it under the coalition’s rules. They were unable to comment on whether union leaders will be looking at their bylaws when they meet Monday to take the final vote on the agreement.
Connecticut has not acted as New Jersey and New York have in balancing their budgets on our backs, DeStefano said.
But without the union agreement in hand, everything is on the table, Malloy said.
Layoffs will be swift and could be as high as 7,500 right away, but no layoff notices had been sent out Friday. He said he did everything in his power to avoid layoffs and understands it will be bad for the economy, but his hands are tied by a union deal that was extended through 2017 by former Gov. John G. Rowland. He did not refer to Rowland by name.
Asked if he was surprised the unions would reject this deal with four years of job security, Malloy said “remember that I asked for the initial rescissionary authority back in February.”