HARTFORD, CT — Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano reiterated Thursday that Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget is out of balance because he has yet to find agreement with the unions over hundreds of millions in budget savings related to pension payments.
The stakes are high for the first-time governor who has little ability to find savings elsewhere in the budget if he’s unable to strike a deal with union leadership to reamortize the state employees pension plan.
“This budget is out of balance and unconstitutional period,” Fasano said Thursday during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.
However, Lamont and Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw, believe they will be able to achieve the savings Fasano cited within the next 30 to 45 days.
McCaw said the discussion with union leadership over pension reamortization is just beginning.
Fasano said that’s a concession that “there is no deal with state employee unions to achieve the $450 million in savings in the budget bill.”
“Did Gov. Lamont not think it was important to let the legislature know this fact prior to their budget vote last week?” Fasano said. “Democrat lawmakers who voted ‘yes’ believed this was a done deal. From what the governor said today, it is abundantly clear that it is not a done deal.”
As far as negotiations are concerned, Fasano said this will be a test of Lamont’s character because the unions now have leverage over his negotiating position.
Fasano wondered whether the unions would ask Lamont to extend the 2017 deal for pension and health benefits that goes through 2027 or extend the no-layoff clause which ends in 2021.
“Nobody has asked for that and that’s not what we’re going to do,” Lamont said.
He said he’s going to make sure the state employees pension is solvent for the long-term without burdening the taxpayers.
“These are not concessions these are reforms that flatten out our obligations so that our fixed costs are a diminishing portion of our overall budget,” Lamont said.
McCaw said she doesn’t believe these savings will be problematic to achieve “in light of the fact that a majority of these items have statutory agreements that allow us to do so.”
Fasano suggested Lamont veto the budget because he won’t be able to use his executive authority to keep it in balance without a deal with the unions. Lamont’s ability to rescind spending in the budget was reduced by about $2.5 billion a year under the bipartisan budget approved back in 2018.
“As a business guy I can’t believe the governor would have boxed himself in,” Fasano said. “You have a budget that’s gonna start on July 1 and every day that ticks off is a day less that he can find the savings of $450 million. The leverage clearly is in the unions corner after July 1.”
He said the box is going to be like a vice that tightens every day after July 1.
There are still several more steps that need to happen before the savings are realized.
The reamortization would only require a vote of the governing board of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and not a vote of rank-and-file members because the benefits under the pension plan would not be changed.
It’s unclear if the deal would also require a vote of the General Assembly.
Lamont has yet to sign the two-year, $43.35 billion budget, but said he plans to sign it when it reaches his desk.