Connecticut’s state budget impasse took a step toward resolution on July 31 with the state Senate’s approval of a $1.57 billion package of union concessions.
The concessions passed by a single vote cast by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to break an 18-18 tie. Gov. Dannel Malloy in late Juneannounced a tentative deal that received overwhelming support from members of the State Employee Bargaining Agency Coalition and was also approved by the state House of Representatives.
The agreement extends union contracts from 2022 to 2027 and includes wage freezes, furlough days, higher health insurance co-payments and a four-year no-layoff provision.
“The SEBAC agreement is the most critical single piece of the budget equation and today Democrats in the Senate wiped out 30 percent — more than $1.5 billion — of the projected biennial deficit,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, a Democrat from New Haven.
The projected budget deficit stands at approximately $5.1 billion.
“Outside independent analysts confirm that the new SEBAC agreement makes important long-term changes to our state employee pension and benefit programs resulting in significant savings for taxpayers — roughly $24 billion over the next 20 years,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, a Norwalk Democrat. “These savings are another important step toward reaching a final balanced budget that protects taxpayers, vital services and the important economic gains made here in Connecticut.”
Republican lawmakers were less enthusiastic.
“Once again, Connecticut Democrats have put our state on the wrong path,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano. “Accepting this deal will hamstring our state for the next 10 years and leave us with no ability to streamline government in challenging financial times. Lawmakers did the same thing in 2011 and clearly never learned their lesson.”
“This deal will leave our state limited options to deal with all future financial challenges,” Fasano added. “It means a sales tax increase, an increase in property taxes and a decrease in funding for core social services. Those who voted in favor of this agreement have acquiesced and endorsed a path that will lead to significant tax increases and deep cuts to services for the most vulnerable. They have locked our state into a deal that takes away our flexibility to achieve a budget that truly protects the most vulnerable and middle class. For these same lawmakers to argue they won’t vote for a tax increase is disingenuous, because with this vote the die is cast.”
Fasano said that his fellow Republicans “hope” to see a complete budget proposal from their Democratic colleagues soon.
Sen. Tony Hwang, a Republican representing Fairfield, Newtown, Westport, Weston and Easton, was equally dismayed. “This deal will result in more and more job-killing tax hikes” as well as cuts to municipal aid and property tax increases, he said.
“This is a missed opportunity to send a visionary and compelling message that Connecticut is ready to move forward,” Hwang added. “Why are we restricting our own negotiation leverage by approving this legally binding agreement for nearly a decade? Connecticut is now in crisis mode. We need to get back to budget negotiation and restructure and reform state government. This deal doesn’t go far enough in terms of savings.”