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Deficit in Conn. puts jobs on line

Malloy proposes 5,500 layoffs after unions reject deal

By Susan Haigh
Associated Press / June 29, 2011

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HARTFORD — Governor Dannel P. Malloy proposed laying off nearly 5,500 state employees yesterday to balance Connecticut’s two-year, $40.1 billion budget, now that workers have defeated a labor-savings and concessions deal.

Malloy’s recommendations to legislators also call for cutting 1,000 other positions that are now vacant. That means a total of 6,466 job cuts, a reduction from the original 7,500 layoffs Malloy had first predicted.

The Democratic governor has already called members of the General Assembly back to Hartford for a special session tomorrow, the final day of the fiscal year.

The proposed budget fix was released as the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition attempts to come up with some kind of a solution to ultimately stop the layoffs from taking effect. Given the various notification requirements, many of the workers will not actually leave the state payroll until September, Malloy has said.

Coalition officials are looking at everything from possible second votes by individual unions to reexamining the coalition bylaws, which allowed the deal to fail even though a majority, 57 percent, of the 45,000 unionized workers who voted actually supported the deal.

Any changes to the existing retirement and health care agreement require the support of at least 14 of the 15 SEBAC unions.

In this case, the vote was 11-4, two more than needed to kill it.

“Let them decide what rules apply, because that’s not a decision that I get to make,’’ Malloy told reporters earlier in the day. “And once they’ve sorted out what all their problems are and once we experience what we’re about to experience, maybe other things happen. But I think what is necessary is that we move forward. We balance the budget. I have a plan to do that.’’

The recommendations to the Legislature outline savings goals for individual state agencies and a suggested number of layoffs needed to help commissioners reach those goals.

Colleen Flanagan, Malloy’s spokeswoman, said it will be left to the individual commissioners to determine how to achieve those savings.

“Some might choose to lay off more people to get to that number; some might choose to lay off a lower number and find additional savings elsewhere,’’ she said in an e-mail to reporters.

The Department of Correction has the largest number of suggested position reductions — 1,019, a figure that includes jobs that are currently filled and vacant.

Some other proposed position reductions include 817 at the Department of Transportation, 540 at the Department of Developmental Services, and 486 at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Malloy’s plan also reduces state aid to cities and towns by $54.4 million in each of the two years of the budget. It is equivalent to a 2.4 percent reduction in statutory formula grants to municipalities.

Jim Finley, executive director and chief executive of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said he is concerned about the cuts in state aid.

Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford, said he tried to limit the reductions as much as possible to avoid forcing cities and towns to raise their property taxes.

Also, many municipalities have already passed their local budgets and issued tax bills.

“We don’t have all the details yet, but it if affects the Education Cost Sharing Grant; that’s going to be a body blow to school districts across the state,’’ said Finley, adding that the conference will ask lawmakers to avoid imposing the municipal aid cuts.