HARTFORD, CT — A day after challenging the credentials of one of his opponents, David Stemerman was outside the state Capitol talking for an hour about his fifth and final policy paper calling for the creation of the “citizen happiness score.”
Stemerman, who sold his hedge fund to run for governor, would institute a customer service happiness score for state departments that provide services.
In order to make some Connecticut citizens happy and others angry, Stemerman plans on eliminating collective bargaining rights for public sector health and pension benefits, cutting revenue by $3 billion, and cutting spending by aligning public employee pay with the private sector, while better prioritizing the current spending.
Where would he cut spending?
Stemerman said he would cut spending by $2 billion, but he declined to say where or over what period of time.
He said he would find the money by “eliminating special deals and modernizing our tax code.”
The next governor will face a $4.6 billion two-year budget deficit, which amounts to $2 billion in the first year and $2.6 billion in the second year of the budget.
So Stemerman wants to cut $2 billion in spending, eliminate $3 billion in revenue, and resolve a $4.6 billion deficit.
“The period of time we will be able to achieve that will depend upon the agreement we reach with the state employees,” Stemerman said.
He pointed out the Commission on Fiscal Stability recommended cutting $1 billion in spending. However, he failed to mention that the commission never identified where it would make those cuts.
He said he would align state employee pay with the private sector for all new hires.
He said he would make the changes as quickly as he’s able to make changes to the labor agreements. The document Stemerman handed to reporters says he would maintain collective bargaining for salaries, even though those salaries would now have to be aligned with the private sector.
Stemerman said during his press conference that he would allow the legislature to negotiate wages, too.
Most of Stemerman’s proposals would require public sector union cooperation.
There’s little or no incentive for public employee unions to cooperate and give bargaining for health and pension benefits over to the General Assembly. They also have a no-layoff clause for another two years and locked in health and pension benefits until 2027.
“The current path is both unfair and unsustainable,” Stemerman said.
Stemerman also proposed treating public employee unions the same as state contractors.
State contractors have been unable to give donations to political candidates since the law was passed in 2005. The clean elections law was instituted following the corruption conviction of former Gov. John G. Rowland.
What Stemerman didn’t seem to understand was that none of the dues union members pay to belong to the unions are used for political campaigns. Campaigns, including endorsements of candidates, are paid for by voluntary donations to a separate fund.
Stemerman said he’s talking about how the union dues are used to lobby lawmakers and the executive branch.
Stemerman said the state employee concession packages Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was able to get through the legislature was “payback” for union help during the 2010 primary.
But that’s a tough sell for anyone who saw Malloy lay off hundreds of state employees in 2011 when the unions refused to agree to a deal. The two sides eventually reached a deal, but four years later the state was still struggling and Malloy asked the union for more concessions. The union refused to sit down with Malloy in 2016, which prompted the governor to lay off more employees.
The following year, after that round of layoffs, negotiations began. They lasted for more than a year before the legislature in July 2017 inked a deal that put any new state employee into a hybrid defined benefit/401k-style pension plan.
Stemerman maintained the narrative that Malloy and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, who works for AFSCME Council 4, were essentially in cahoots with the unions.
“The state employee contracts that have been signed since then, including the last 10 years, have been payback to the unions in exchange for their political contributions and their support in both of his elections. That is corruption at the very core of our government,” Stemerman said.
He said the state Democratic Party is “overwhelmingly financed and supported in political activities by the organization of the state employee unions.”
Aresimowicz agreed to a budget that requires the General Assembly to vote on every union contract.
As far as politics are concerned, Connecticut’s unions are not giving great sums of money to the Connecticut Democratic Party.
The Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee only had $77,000 in cash on hand in its state account at the end of June. That’s the amount of money that can be used for state races.
The Connecticut Democratic Party also has about $312,000 in a federal account that can be used for its Congressional delegation and some get-out-the-vote activities. Most of the money came from a transfer from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s campaign committee.
Stemerman blamed the deficits on the unfunded pension liability and debt, and said he would look to give state employees a lump sum amount of money, instead of forcing them to wait for a pension they may never get.
Unlike two of his five Republican opponents for the Aug. 14 primary, Stemerman has not proposed eliminating the personal income tax, which accounts for more than $9.5 billion or 49 percent of revenues to the annual state budget.