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.”