(Updated 5:45 p.m.) When the dust settles on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s attempt to close a $1.6 billion budget gap created in part by the defeat of a labor concession package, there will be 57 fewer state troopers, fewer group homes for the disabled, fewer Department of Motor Vehicle offices, fewer social service offices, fewer teachers, and fewer prison guards.
Documents released by Malloy’s administration show he plans oneliminating 6,560 positions in state government. About 1,599 of those are funded vacancies that are being eliminated, according to Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes. About 450 of the layoffs will come from the Judicial Branch and 50 from the legislative branch. The executive branch will eliminate 4,328 state employees currently working for various state agencies.
Aside from the four DMV offices in Putnam, Old Saybrook, Enfield, and Danbury, and two DSS offices, Malloy administration officials refused to say specifically what other programs and services will be cut until Friday because not all the state employees who will receive notices have been told they‘re losing their jobs.
These program and job cuts, “will present enormous challenges for the state and its citizens,” Barnes said. “There are going to be some areas where services are reduced to a level that is tolerable and that the public finds to be appropriate. And there are going to be other areas of service reductions that are going to be untenable in the long run and there will be, no doubt, pressure to restore some of the programs that end up being cut in the future.”
The position elimination was driven by achieving balance in fiscal year 2012, rather than fiscal year 2013. Barnes added that the plan, which saves $704 million in 2012 and $905 million in 2013, was created with an eye toward implementing it, but he doesn’t want to fool himself that it’s perfect.
“One of the things the governor’s talked about since he was a candidate was the need to make state government smaller, more effective, and more efficient,“ Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said. “This process of downsizing state government was going to occur anyway. The governor would have preferred to do it through an agreement with state employee units, but the current state government, as it‘s currently constituted, its expense level, it‘s not sustainable.”
He said the defeat of the concession agreement exacerbates the situation, “there’s no question about it,” but the governor was intent on downsizing state government.
It’s likely the plan, especially the service cuts that have yet to be revealed, won’t sit well with Democratic lawmakers. But Democratic lawmakers did give themselves an opportunity to review Malloy’s proposal when it passed legislation last month during a special session.
Under the legislation the General Assembly adopted, House Speaker Chris Donovan and Senate President Donald Williams have an opportunity to call for a public hearing on Malloy’s proposal and also a special session to vote on the changes.
House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said during debate on the bill that Democratic leadership has every intention of calling the legislature back into session to vote on the rescissions.
“We would have never engaged in the exercise of inserting the legislature into the process if we never meant to return in the first place,” Sharkey said.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Thursday he still has concerns that the legislature abdicated its responsibility when it increased Malloy’s recessionary authority from 5 percent to 10 percent.
“The problem is we as a legislature don’t have a chance to talk about it, change it, debate it,” Cafero said. “We’ve given that power away to the governor and that’s what’s most concerning.”
Rep. Toni Walker, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, declined comment on the budget cuts earlier today.
“We anticipate receiving the final, detailed plan from the Administration, sharing that plan with Appropriations Committee leadership and caucus members for analysis, and beginning to identify the most onerous aspects of it. We have tentative plans to conduct a public hearing on specific items in the proposal on or before August 15,” Donovan said in a statement.
But he would prefer it doesn’t even get to that point.
“The plan submitted by the Governor today makes it abundantly clear that the interests of the state, the people of Connecticut and state employees are best served by a concessions agreement between the Administration and state employees,” Donovan said. “Unfortunately, the Governor had to put this plan together due to the failure of the unions to ratify the agreement. This plan would harm our state in significant ways. That is why I am urging the Governor and SEBAC to reach an agreement – that is the most responsible action available.”
“During the course of this budget crisis, the General Assembly has approved billions of dollars in spending cuts while trying to maintain critical services. This budget plan would put Connecticut in unchartered waters,” Sen. President Donald Williams, said in a statement late Thursday. “Unless SEBAC can find a way to produce the savings, families across Connecticut will suffer. Over the next few days we will share this plan with our caucus members and discuss the next steps, including a possible public hearing on August 15th.”
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition is expected to meet Monday to discuss changes to their bylaws. If the bylaws are changed and there’s a path to ratification, Malloy has said he would look to clarify a second concession package. While there’s still opposition amongst some state employees to approve the concession package, the pink slips, according to union sources, have several naysayers changing their minds.
Andrew Matthews, president of the state troopers union, that the governor’s plan to layoff 57 recently graduated troopers will hurt public safety. He said the state police are already operating with 1,127 troopers, well below a statutory mandate requiring 1,248.
Matthews said taxpayers paid approximately $1.6 million to have the class of 57 troopers graduate in November.
“Now we’re going to lay them off and risk losing them to other employers?” he asked.
On Wednesday Occhiogrosso said the governor was confident in the commissioner of Public Safety and that the state police could handle the layoffs without a risk to the public. It will just involve state police who have been working other assignments for awhile to be moved back on the road, he said.
But Matthews said people need to realize that much of the work the state police do doesn’t involve uniformed on-the-road troopers.
“We have about 725 of our troopers that perform uniform functions. The rest of them are doing statutorily mandated jobs,” he said.
That involves sex offender investigations, the state’s elite major crimes squad, narcotics and gangs, he said.
“The public doesn’t see that on a day-to-day basis. You strip those units and you put them back on patrol, and remember we’re already 156 troopers below our high in 2009, so where do all those positions go,” he said.
The result will be either those jobs don’t get done or the taxpayers pay for trooper overtime, he said.
Check back later for more reaction and reach out to us if you’re a state employee whose program or position has been eliminated