A new union television ad challenges Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s use of the phrase “new economic reality.”
It’s a phrase Malloy has used repeatedly after signing into law the second largest tax hike in Connecticut’s history in 2015. After revenues continued to fall short this year, instead of raising taxes the second-term governor and Democratic majority in the legislature approved a budget that cut hundreds of millions of dollars and lays off more than 1,125 state employees.
It was a decision that didn’t sit well with the state’s labor unions, who backed the governor in his re-election bid in 2014.
In the latest television ad, Shirley Watson, who works for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, says “Connecticut’s best days are not behind us, they’re ahead of us.”
Watson said laying off state workers hurts the state’s economy. She said state workers have a “new economic reality too, one where politicians have the courage to stand up to millionaires and billionaires and stop balancing the budget on the backs of middle class families.”
“We’re not going to settle for perpetual recession anymore,” Watson said. “We know that there’s a better future out there and we’re going to find it.”
The ad, which began airing today, was paid for by SEIU 1199. It’s the third ad the union has run this summer.
“We reject the pessimistic outlook of the governor’s ‘new economic reality’ that our best days are behind us,” Jennifer Schneider, a spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, said. “Every state has challenges but it is how we rise to them and how we choose to solve the problems before us that will determine the future of our state for generations.”
Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said the administration couldn’t agree more that a bright future lies ahead for Connecticut.
However, there is a fundamental disagreement on how to get there.
“We have to face reality — we can’t simply ignore the fiscal challenges facing our state,” McClure said. “Like working families throughout our many great communities, we need to live within our means and adapt to a changing economy. That means making difficult but necessary budget cuts so that we don’t spend more than we have, and so that we can continue on our path of recovery.”
The unions advocated for an increase in taxes in order to solve the 2016 budget deficit. However, lawmakers — to the disappointment of the unions — pressed forward with a budget that only cut spending. The unions declined to renegotiate their health and pension benefit package, which doesn’t expire until 2022.
The battle is likely to continue next year because even though the legislature cut nearly $800 million from the 2017 budget, fiscal analysis still believe the state will run a $1.3 billion deficit over the next two years.