Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made another stop on his statewide jobs tour Monday, this one in Somers, a small town in a region that stands to lose a lot of jobs in the absence of a ratified labor agreement.
Malloy toured Specialized Technology Resources, a manufacturer of special plastic coatings used on solar panels. The business employs 121 people in Somers and Enfield.
Though Friday night brought news of a newly clarified concession package between the governor and state labor unions, he acknowledged today that layoff notices will continue to go out this week.
And those cuts and layoffs included in the governor’s plan hit the East-of-the-River region and the Enfield region especially hard.
The town alone is bracing for the closure of Enfield Superior Court and a Department of Motor Vehicles office as well as the closure of Enfield Correctional Institution.
The governor acknowledged those lost jobs are bound to impact the region’s economy and private sector jobs.
“I think every job lost has a trickle down impact and lots of communities are harder hit than others. You know, the number of people working in Hartford is going to decline very substantially. It plays itself out differently in each location,” he said.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said the cuts would be especially detrimental to his region just do to the sheer number of state workers there. Even if the labor agreement is ratified, some of those employees will lose their jobs due to agency consolidations, he said.
“Because Enfield and North Central Connecticut have so many state employees that work in so many different departments, no matter what happens it’s going to have a negative impact on us,” he said. “There are going to be some families that are going to struggle and in this economy it’s going to be very difficult to find other jobs.”
Democratic state Reps. Kathy Tallarita and David Kiner of Enfield were also worried about their region.
Tallarita said her primary concern would be the lost jobs but she also wondered if the town’s payment in lieu taxes funding from the state would be affected if the facilities closed.
“One of the things that we tried to avoid was municipal aid cuts and it would actually be a cut to our municipal aid if we’re not receiving the PILOT,” she said.
Kiner said that since the state would be maintaining the buildings, the town should continue to receive the funds but Tallarita questioned whether the state will decide to sell off some of them in the future.
“We’re all in a holding pattern just waiting,” she said.
Tallarita said if the cuts are required, she will be encouraging residents to attend a public hearing to talk about how important the facilities are to the region. Many of her local businesses will feel the pain, she said, using the Country Diner, an Enfield restaurant run by a former police officer, as an example.
“He sees state troopers come in there, he sees the corrections officers come in there. He’s not too far from the DMV, so they come in there for lunch and breakfast,” she said. “You do have that trickle down effect on small businesses.”
It’s important to note the closures aren’t set in stone, Kiner said. They are proposals submitted by the governor, which the legislature will likely hold a public hearing over and ultimately vote on.
The process will give the Enfield delegation a chance to fight to keep their services intact and facilities open, he said.
“Even if the unions do not ratify the agreement we’re going to fight like hell to preserve our DMV, not only for Enfield but for North Central Connecticut,” he said.
There are many auto businesses in the area that rely on that DMV and, Kiner said, his constituents don’t want to see it closed.
Malloy and the three lawmakers all hoped to see a ratified agreement in the near future to avoid the economic destruction but their confidence in such an event varied.
Because 57 percent of state workers voted for the first agreement and union leaders voted last week to change their bylaws to allow a simple majority to pass a new agreement, Kiner said it was a near certainty.
After the rejection of the agreement the first time, the governor was less assured, giving it about 50-50 odds.
“If I make a mistake once, you might forgive me. If I make a mistake twice, you probably wouldn’t. I’m not staking anything to this. We’re going to be in a position to have the budget balanced one way or the other,” he said.
Many of the cuts hitting Enfield would evaporate if unions vote for the agreement, Malloy said. The Motor Vehicles office stay remain open and he speculated the courthouse would remain operational as well.
“I don’t run the court system as you know but I don’t think that the court system was anxious to do those closures. So I think that’s true, it’s certainly true with the DMV,” he said.
As for the prison, Malloy said it will likely still be closing but only as a function of the Corrections Department shrinking with less inmates. Arrests in the state are down and the need for prison space is dropping, he said.
“It’s not any other artificial consideration. So it’s not how many facilities we have open, it’s how many beds do we need to have open,” he said.
While the governor said he hadn’t anticipated closing the prison by October, as it’s now slated, the facility is “operationally the oldest” of the prisons open and would be closed eventually in any case.