Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday he is doubtful that state employee unions will agree to roughly $2 billion in concessions and other labor savings over two years to balance the state budget, and he scheduled a special session next week for lawmakers to pass a plan that could lead to thousands of layoffs and further spending cuts.
The new Democratic governor said he wants lawmakers to return to the Capitol on June 30, the final day of the fiscal year, to vote on the revised budget plan and to expand his budget-cutting authority.
Malloy said he always hoped that the agreement reached between his administration and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition would be ratified by the 45,000 unionized workers, but "that looks increasingly unlikely."
"I am loath to make the decisions facing us at this juncture _ including layoffs, programmatic and municipal aid cuts _ but I am left with no choice." Malloy said in a written statement. "Working with the legislature, we will have a balanced budget and one that, while making painful cuts and difficult decisions, will be balanced honestly without tricks or gimmicks."
The tentative agreement needs the approval of at least 14 of the 15 unions in the coalition; as of Thursday night one union had rejected it, and 11 others had approved it. The results of the remaining union votes are expected to be announced Friday.
The General Assembly has already approved the two-year budget and counted on $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years to balance the state's books amid a $3.3 billion deficit, beginning July 1.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, sent a message to his fellow Democratic senators asking them to clear their calendars for the special session. If the agreement is ratified, workers would be protected from layoffs over the next four years.
"We all wish this were unnecessary. The failure to ratify by state employees does more harm to them and the cause of labor than anything their enemies could possibly achieve," Williams wrote. "It's unbelievable that they don't understand that."
Malloy, who spoke to reporters earlier in the day, did not provide a specific number of possible layoffs but called them "large-scale" and said he agreed with his senior adviser who told reporters Wednesday they would be in the ballpark of 7,500. Malloy said state employees, on average, will likely leave the state payroll around Sept. 1.
Given that delay, he said the number of layoffs will increase to cover the expense of paying people until Sept. 1.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he doubts Malloy will issue 7,500 layoff notices, calling it a scare tactic. While he acknowledges layoffs will be needed, he said there is still plenty Malloy can cut that does not affect jobs.
Malloy has said if the labor deal fails, he will not raise taxes any further beyond the $1.4 billion increase in the first year of the budget and $1.2 billion in the second year. But besides layoffs, Malloy has said other spending cuts will be necessary. He has not ruled out reductions in state aid to cities and towns, something the former mayor of Stamford had avoided in the past to prevent local property tax increases.
Malloy said he expects to release his so-called Plan B budget on Monday.
Larry Dorman, a spokesman for the union coalition, said the unions are still hoping to ratify the deal, calling the alternative "a disaster."
"We understand that the governor wants to get moving, but the nuclear option doesn't serve anyone's interest and it would be horrible for the economy to witness mass layoffs," he said.
Meanwhile, Jon Pepe, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 391, the Connecticut State Prison Employees, said that he hopes his 1,850 members vote for the deal but believes many will vote no. Two other AFSCME prison locals have done so.
"My members are voting, but I believe the early release of everybody's returns didn't help matters," he said. "All they hear is no, no. They feel, let me vote no too."
Local 391 represents correction officers, food service, maintenance, counselors, auto mechanics and other prison employees. Pepe said its voting results will be released Friday at 11 a.m.
They are the final AFSCME members to vote. If the majority of AFSCME members vote no, the deal dies; a separate, non-AFSCME union, the Connecticut Employees Union Independent, Local 511, which represents maintenance and service workers, has already defeated it.
Pepe, who supports the concessions, said he believes many of his members have been influenced by misinformation about the tentative agreement, especially about a voluntary health care plan to that requires participants to get age-appropriate medical tests and annual physicals. He said they've been bombarded with fake state employee emails, messages on Facebook, Twitter and on Internet news sites encouraging them to vote down the deal.
"I left it open as long as possible for my members to get all the information and to help put off the misinformation," he said. "I put them in the position to control their destiny. Now they hold their fate in their own hands."
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