Legislative fiscal analysts told lawmakers during a Thursday hearing they expect an agreement on wages and bonuses for state employees negotiated by the governor’s administration and a coalition of labor unions to cost around $1.87 billion over four years.
The labor deal will be subject to a public hearing of the Appropriations Committee on Monday, but members of the panel’s collective bargaining subcommittee heard a breakdown of the agreement’s estimated expense on Thursday.
It will cost about $155 million to provide most of the state’s 46,000 employees with $3,500 in bonuses, spread over two fiscal years with part-time workers receiving prorated bonuses. Raises, meanwhile, will total around $1.472 billion between general wage increases and incremental step increases.
The agreement has already been ratified by 35 bargaining units within the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and will need approval by the state legislature in order to go into effect.
Lamont, who is in the midst of a reelection bid and overseeing an unprecedented wave of state employee retirements driven by previously negotiated benefit reductions, has characterized this year’s agreement as helping to retain state employees.
“I want a salary structure that continues to allow me to recruit,” Lamont said earlier this month. “I want to give people some certainty and make sure they had some incentive to stay in state government.”
However, legislative Republicans have called the deal too lucrative and on Thursday they reacted to its estimated price by calling it unaffordable for Connecticut taxpayers. In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the agreement prioritized growing government over tax relief.
“The ‘deal’ negotiated by Gov. Lamont is no deal at all. It provides no benefit to state taxpayers. It will add more burdens onto CT families,” Kelly and Formica said. “It will force UConn to raise tuition yet again. And if the goal is truly to retain employees, why does the Governor’s ‘deal’ allow workers to collect a bonus and still retire this year?”
Max Reiss, the governor’s chief spokesman, said Friday the agreement served to recognize state workers, especially those that stayed on the job through the height of the pandemic, and keep public service a competitive employment option.
“We are in active competition for everyone from inspectors to engineers,” Reiss said. “We need to have competitive wages and benefits to recruit the next generation of state workers.”