HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 3:22 p.m.) Less than 24 hours after a coalition of unions announced they had ratified a $1.57 billion concession package, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration sent the more than 30 wage contracts for the individual bargaining groups to legislative leaders.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he has been asking for those contracts since July 6. His office said they received them Tuesday night.
Fasano declined to say if he would vote to ratify the labor deal until he’s able to analyze the individual contracts. Unlike the health and pension part of the labor deal, those individual bargaining group contracts for wages and working conditions were not made publicly available until after the union vote was finalized.
Fasano argues that it’s necessary to have all the contracts in order to understand whether the entire $1.57 billion in savings over two years can be achieved.
“We cannot do our budgets to elections. We have to do our budgets for generations,” Fasano said.
Republicans in the House have said the deal doesn’t save enough to help Connecticut in the future.
Fasano maintained Tuesday that the Senate Republican plan to legislate changes to the state’s relationship with state employees will be better in both the short and long terms.
But Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said it’s “simply another attempt to derail the largest savings the State has ever negotiated and abolish collective bargaining rights.”
Barnes said the Republican plan doesn’t achieve the savings the state needs.
“The Senate Republican [plan] requires that employees in 2022 be converted to a pension system that is worth less than the contributions required of employees. It depends on reducing pensions that were already earned and slamming retirees into a new health plan, subjecting the state to class-action litigation not unlike SEBAC v. Rowland, which resulted in more than $100 million in costs to taxpayers,” Barnes said Wednesday.
He said the plan doesn’t fix the cost of the current state employee benefits, which can only be achieved through collective bargaining. He said only the SEBAC agreement can deliver the more than $350 million in employee and retiree healthcare savings “right now when we need them.”
Fasano said he understands the governor’s administration needs to defend its agreement with the unions, but that doesn’t make Barnes’ comments accurate.
“I understand that the administration is extraordinarily nervous that Senate Republicans have come up with a legal, realistic, measured plan which saves more money than the governor’s deal which took over a year to negotiate,” Fasano said Wednesday. “I understand the purpose of Secretary Barnes’ statement. Unfortunately, the statement is inaccurate and self-serving.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he plans to let the General Assembly vote on the labor deal on the same day they vote on a new two-year budget.
Allowing labor to ratify the $1.57 billion in savings resolves at least part of the $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years and has lawmakers breathing a sigh of relief.
“We could potentially be coming in for a budget vote soon,” Aresimowicz said Tuesday.
But Aresimowicz warned that they do not have a budget if that $1.57 billion from labor unions disappears. That’s why he said the General Assembly needs to approve the labor deal.
Technically, they could allow the labor deal to sit on the clerk’s desk until February 2018 and allow it to go into effect automatically. The 30-day clock on automatic adoption of the deal would start ticking when the legislature reconvenes and no vote would be necessary.
Little, if anything, has been said about using that option mostly because they wouldn’t be able then to get all the savings they need to balance the budget until March 2018. That would mean they would need to find more in spending cuts or revenue in order to balance the budget immediately.
Aresimowicz said no vote counts have been taken yet on the labor deal.
Republicans appear likely to continue to encourage their colleagues to reject the labor savings.
The contracts are available for download below in PDF format (some documents contain multiple contracts):