HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 12:30 p.m.) Gov. Ned Lamont hasn’t signed the two-year, $43.35-billion budget yet, but Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano is raising concerns about where he plans to find hundreds of millions in state employee savings.
“Ok, so where is it? I asked for this information a week ago, prior to the budget vote. I never received it. Here we are, a week later, and I continue to ask for details,” Fasano said. “The governor says this is an ‘honest’ and ‘balanced’ budget. If so, then show the State of Connecticut where the $450 million is saved.”
Fasano is referring to the savings from the reamortization of the State Employees Retirement System.
Last week, Dan Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said, “We don’t consider it unreasonable for the budget to assume the parties will agree to this change.”
Fasano was quick to point out those changes have not technically been agreed to yet, and that’s his point.
“Clearly, it makes it sound an awful lot like there is not a deal,” Fasano said. “If there’s not a deal there cannot be a savings and if there’s not a savings then this budget is out of balance.”
There are $163 million in the first year and $200 million in savings in the second year of the budget related to refinancing pensions for state employees. The money is currently an unallocated, unspecified lapse in the budget.
The rank-and-file union members don’t necessarily have to vote on the changes, but the leadership of the union has to agree to it, just like it did back in 2012 when the state agreed to put $125 million more per year into the pension fund.
Lamont’s office was not immediately available for comment Wednesday and referred us back to a statement they made on June 4.
Maribel La Luz, Lamont’s communications director, said last week that union leadership has “expressed a willingness to jointly pursue” the state employee retirement system reamortization.
Again, Fasano said there’s no indication there’s been a deal made.
“Taxpayers deserve to know if that number is real or fiction. Look them in the eye and be straight with them,” Fasano said. “Democrats who voted for the budget last week apparently believed this $450,000,000 in savings was real. If the savings isn’t real, then those Democrats were duped into voting for an unbalanced budget and they should be outraged.”
Kevin Coughlin, communications director for the Senate Democrats, said Fasano is in no position to criticize the budget because his caucus failed to put forward their own budget plan.
“Once again, Senator Fasano is expressing concern about a state budget without proposing a balanced budget of his own. Before criticizing 1% of the state budget, Senator Fasano and Republicans need to put together the other 99%,” Coughlin said.
He added that the “Republicans had six months to prepare and vet a balanced budget. This evasion of duty proves this comment and any other comments to follow is purely political.”