March 9, 2016 - The legislative session has been underway for the last month and the challenges that we face have become much clearer.
The fight over how to resolve an ever-growing budget deficit has divided the general assembly between passing a special tax on state employees by cutting pay and benefits (and jobs) versus slightly increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires who have gone unscathed since the economic meltdown of 2008.
We were able to get a sense of where the legislature is heading with the vote on the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Assocation (UCPEA) contract in the Appropriations Committee. After hours of discussion and questioning, the committee legislators from the House voted on it favorably while the legislators from the Senate tied and send an unfavorable report to the Senate.
Additionally, the Governor and Senate leadership have called for the UCPEA contract to be called for a vote and for it to be rejected. This is uncommon, but not surprising, for a contract to be called for a vote in order to reject the contract. The contract was bargaining in good faith by both parties, which found it acceptable, but now the legislature wants to send a message to labor – the people who got many of them elected.
Council 4 members have turned out regularly to speak on behalf of the services they provide. For example:
Many legislators seem to think that the administration made some sort of offer to the state employee unions for concessions in lieu of layoffs. No such offer has been made by the governor. The layoff number keeps changing. Ranges have been from 1,000 to 3,000 to 5,000 layoffs.
Privatization efforts by the administration and the Republicans are ongoing. The evident privatization efforts are occurring most around the Departments of Social Services, Motor Vehicles and Labor, but with a lot of layoffs in the works they could reach to almost any department.
With the announcement that the deficit for Fiscal Year 2017 is projected to grow from $569 million, when the budget was first proposed just over a month ago, to about $900 million layoff and cutting fever seems to have gotten even worse.
The original proposed budget suggested a 5.75% cut in municipal grants from the state, except for ECS (the big education grant.) Such a cut could result in a wave of municipal layoffs.
Council 4 continues its efforts at restoring a sane and fair state tax policy. Many economists point to the massive tax cuts that the federal and state government have given to the rich, and the huge accumulation of wealth to the top one percent, as the reasons for unsettled state budgets. We will continue to work with labor and community allies in an effort to protect the services we provide and make Connecticut a state that works for all of us rather than just the hedge fund managers.
Be sure to attend Council 4 Lobby Day on April 20. Scroll down to Additional Resources for the flyer.