HARTFORD, CT — Local mayors and first selectmen don’t want to be punished for handling their budgets responsibly over the years, and they say what’s in their Rainy Day Fund shouldn’t impact the results of a labor dispute.
With only a few days left in the legislative session, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is pushing a bill to help them preserve these emergency funds.
“Connecticut faces an unprecedented credit-rating crisis, with Moody’s questioning the ratings of 26 additional cities and towns in addition to 25 that already have negative outlooks,” Joseph DeLong, CCM’s executive director, said.
The bill, which has been on the Senate calendar since April 10, “aims to protect the municipalities of Connecticut from passing the effects of these ratings down to the citizens of the state,” DeLong said.
North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda said arbitration cases should be based on the legitimacy of the issue. He said a healthy fund balance should not be taken into consideration by an arbitration panel or arbitrator.
He said he respects the rights of labor to bring the issues to the table where they should be addressed, but doesn’t believe they should impact a town’s credit rating.
Freda said the rating agencies take three things into consideration when they are rating a municipality: the town’s economic development strategy and grand list growth, a town’s fund balance, and its ability to balance its budget.
Labor opposes the bill and says it ignores the concessions employees have given their towns since the beginning of the Great Recession.
Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said the bill attempts to expand a significant concession to municipal employers that was part of the two-year budget agreement.
She said by expanding the irrebuttable presumption to apply to negotiation in addition to arbitration, “municipal employers again are hiding behind their own failed management practices and scapegoating workers for their lack of budget reserves.”
She said they would be wise to discontinue attacks on workers and instead engage in meaningful regionalization efforts.