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Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, and Wood Denounce “A Bad Deal for Connecticut” as SEBAC Labor Agreement Passes the House

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HARTFORD – Norwalk’s GOP delegation of State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142), and Terrie Wood (R-141) voiced their dismay at Monday’s House approval of the state employees’ union concession package due to its insufficient savings and structural changes and its extension of the current union contract until 2027.

The concession package, negotiated by Governor Malloy and union leaders, was ratified by state employees earlier this month and now is tentatively scheduled to go before the Senate on July 31.  Analysts have predicted the plan could save approximately $1.5 billion over the next two years by increasing pension contributions, creating a hybrid/defined contribution plan for future state employees, increasing healthcare co-payments, and realizing other labor savings.  The deal also restricts the state’s ability to lay off workers until 2021.

House Republicans, including Lavielle, Wilms, and Wood highlighted some of the structural change in the concession package as “steps in the right direction” that they supported, but denied the notion that the deal solved Connecticut’s fiscal crisis and indicated it could lead to funding cuts and tax increases in the future.

“Connecticut taxpayers have now seen where the priorities of the legislative majority truly lie: we are facing a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years, one month into the fiscal year we still don’t have a budget, people are suffering due to deep service cuts, and yet we spent an entire day discussing a contract with state employee unions,” said Rep. Lavielle. “The labor contract the House approved does not go far enough in achieving the savings our state desperately needs, and while it includes a few small steps on reforms that I’ve advocated for, the job is only half-done. I fear that this deal clears the way for continued future tax increases and cuts to essential services.  Because it locks in the current, unaffordable union contract, every legislator who votes in favor of this deal bears responsibility for every single tax increase and service cut Connecticut residents may have to bear for the ten years until the contract expires.”

“Where we are today is a result of choices that were made by our predecessors, and we have to live with the choice they made, just like our successors will have to live with the choices we make now,” said Rep. Wilms. “I am disappointed with the choice the majority party made yesterday, because it was not the right choice for Connecticut.  This SEBAC agreement does not get the job done and locks in costs for ten more years. Our successors will have to pay for this choice.”

“There are certainly some good pieces to the union agreement changes, but it fails to achieve the kind of needed savings to make a dent in this enormous $5.1 billion deficit,” said Rep. Wood.  “We need to bring the expensive benefit system set up for state employees more in line with the private sector. Without significant structural changes, we will be right back where we are very soon.”

No action was taken Monday on passing a two-year budget for Connecticut.  House Republicans’ attempts to call their fully-vetted, no tax-increase budget proposal for a vote were rebuffed by majority Democrats.  Their first attempt took place in the form of a proposed rules change, the second in the form of an amendment to the union agreement.

“All day we were told by majority leadership that this labor agreement was the only option for the state, despite the fact that House Republicans have been asking for a vote on our balanced, no tax-increase budget since April,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “This is not fair to the people of Connecticut, who deserve fair and open consideration of every viable budget option. It is unconscionable for the state to go this long without a two-year budget in place, and not voting on one is unacceptable.  I will continue to advocate for taxpayers and to push for a vote on our budget regardless of what the majority party may do to block it.”

“We have tried on multiple occasions to bring our House Republican budget up for a vote,” said Rep. Wood.  “Unfortunately, the Democrats have used their narrow majority to prevent us from even bringing it up for a debate.  It is deeply troubling to me that, especially in the absence of any budget proposal from Democrats, that they refuse to even discuss our budget package and debate it on its merits.  We have been prepared to do that since April.”

Rep. Wilms Co-Hosts Post Session Update in New Canaan – 7-13-2017

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Rep. Fred Wilms and Sen. Toni Boucher co-hosted a Post-Session Update at the New Canaan Town Hall on Thursday, July 13, 2017. They discussed the 2017 session, legislative issues and the ongoing state budget crisis.

If you could not attend this meeting, Rep. Wilms is always available to discuss any state or local concerns at (800) 842-1423 or at fred.wilms@housegop.ct.gov.

Regarding the Walk Bridge Project: Op-Ed by Reps. Fred Wilms and Gail Lavielle

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Rep. Fred WilmsLast week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) provided an update on the Walk Bridge project at City Hall. Present were the Mayor and his staff, State Senator Bob Duff, State Representative Bruce Morris and ourselves.

Below are our observations and recommendations:

 

 

The DOT is committed to building the Lift bridge alternative. In particular, the DOT prefers the 240 foot Vertical Lift Span encompassing two lift towers.

There is a huge gap between Norwalk community opinion and the DOT Lift Span alternative. One constantly hears the refrain around town that the DOT should simply weld the current bridge shut. While the DOT has engaged in community outreach, clearly more listening is needed.

We recommend that Norwalk engage an independent Peer Review of the DOT plans. While the DOT has many top-notch engineers, they are not local. Given the disconnect with Norwalk community opinion, the City should engage an independent Engineering Peer Review, and make these findings available to the public.

At a $1 billion total price tag, can the State afford this project? Our State’s fiscal crisis keeps getting worse. Given our fiscal reality, perhaps the DOT should revisit all of its Walk Bridge assumptions from a cost value perspective.

The Maritime Aquarium IMAX theatre will be demolished and used as a construction area. In exchange the Aquarium is expected to get a new theatre built on the other side.

We believe that Norwalk should receive at least three compensation projects for incurring the entire construction burden on behalf of the Northeast Corridor. New Haven received compensation for the Q Bridge project – so should Norwalk. Two good places to start would be the Wall Street train station and new bike/walk trails.

Our biggest overall concern is Norwalk’s becoming one big construction zone. In addition to the Walk Bridge, there will be the GGP Mall, Washington Village, Wall Street, additional Waypointe projects, the Yankee Doodle Bridge, and the East Avenue Bridge. If mismanaged, Norwalk could end up looking like the current Wall Street. We must not allow this to happen. Therefore the Walk Bridge alternative needs both the shortest construction schedule, and the lowest construction risk. The DOT should get out of Norwalk as quickly as possible and inflict the least amount of damage.

The federal waterway is a poor reason to choose a Bridge alternative. It appears the DOT wants Norwalk to have a federally navigable harbor north of the Walk Bridge more than Norwalk does. An honest assessment of the northern waterway acknowledges the entire area is gentrifying and that the old industrial uses are fading out. Maintaining the northern area for barges and large boats is more about the past and less about the future.

We must keep the greater good in mind when we advocate. While we advocate for our community interests, we must be mindful that the New Haven line carries more than 40 million riders per year. A Walk Bridge failure would imperil the entire Northeast Corridor. We must accept this broader reality and focus our advocacy on solutions that work for all.

Fred Wilms is the State Representative for the 142nd district, which encompasses Norwalk and New Canaan.

Gail Lavielle is the State Representative for the 143rd district, which encompasses Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.