Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outside his state Capitol office Wednesday (Christine Stuart photo)

Pink slips will be going out to state employees over the next few weeks as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers look to close a $900 million budget deficit.

Following a closed-door budget meeting Wednesday with legislative leaders, Malloy said he told them that the timeframe for those notices to go out is “a couple of weeks, give or take a couple of days.”

In order to achieve the “hundreds of millions of dollars” in savings from reducing the state labor force, Malloy must make sure the laid off state employees leave state service before June 9.

He said they are trying to understand what bumping rights and contractual restrictions there are “before we begin that process.”

“You’d like to know what people’s real chances are of keeping their job. You don’t want to inflict anymore pain,” Malloy said.

He declined to say how many state employees will be laid off in order to balance the budget.

“It’s a very, very substantial number,” Malloy said. “We’re working on it.”

The state will have a better handle on how many people plan to retire by the end of the week.

Malloy said he wants to see that number before going forward with the layoffs.

“If you can retire, please retire and save somebody else’s job,” Malloy said.

Layoff estimates have varied depending upon who you speak with at the state Capitol, but the range has been between 2,000 and 3,000. In 2011, Malloy sent pink slips to more than 3,000 state employees when they failed to ratify the changes to their health and pension plan. Those changes, which were eventually approved through a second vote, saved the state about $1.6 billion a year.

Hundreds of state employees came to the state Capitol Tuesday to fight back against Malloy’s suggestion that they open the health and pension benefit package before it expires in 2022. Malloy and legislative leaders have called on the unions to offer more concessions to help them balance the budget, but so far the unions have said they’re not interested.

State workers said the governor and lawmakers shouldn’t balance the budget on their back because it’s not their fault the state is in the current fiscal crisis.

“It’s not their fault. They didn’t do it,” Malloy said. “But circumstances are what they are.”

The state’s budget deficit has been blamed on falling personal income tax revenues due to a changing economy that’s adding more jobs at the bottom of the pay scale than at the top.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Malloy told them that “hundreds of millions” of dollars will have to “be covered by employee layoffs” in order to close the budget deficit.

Looney said legislative leaders also weren’t given a firm number about how many state employees would be impacted by the layoffs.

What’s different this year is that there’s no opportunity for Malloy to offer a “no layoff” pledge like he did in 2011.

Malloy has insisted there has to be layoffs in order to shrink the size of government to a level that the state can afford under this “new economic reality.”