Jepsen, Malloy and playing politics with the law…

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Call it naïve, but some would claim that while politics is political, America’s legal system is supposed to be above or separate from the day-to-day world of politics.

But as we Americans we are learning, our legal system is, in fact, extremely political and appears to becoming more political by the day.

At the federal level, politics surrounded cases like the Bush-Gore election or Obamacare.  Both are prime examples of how politics can influence or even trump legal proceedings.

The sad case of the politicization of the legal system is becoming even clearer here in Connecticut.

In the case of CCEJF v. Rell, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut Constitution requires that the state properly fund a public education system that provides every child with an adequate education and determined that Connecticut’s present education funding formula is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ordered that the CCEJF case be returned to the Superior Court so that the lower court could determine the meaning of adequacy and identify actions the state must take to properly fund its public schools.

Although Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepson endorsed the CCEJF case as candidates and committed to resolving the CCEJF case and improving the school funding formula, the first thing Jepsen and Malloy did was file a motion asking the Court to remove the concept of early childhood education from the court’s definition of education.

But of course, we all know that early childhood education is one of the most vital elements in the effort to improve education achievement.

As if that wasn’t outrageous and insulting enough, more recently Jepsen and Malloy moved to have the entire CCEJF case dismissed by the courts and moved to have the CCEJF coalition removed as the case’s plaintiff.

This past week the Superior Court dismissed Jepson and Malloy’s attempt to end the case and ordered the full trail to begin on July 1, 2014.

Another example of the Malloy administration’s politics before policy approach was visible in how they handled the case of Lopez v. Vallas.  In that case Jepsen and Malloy used public funds to come to the defense of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, when Pryor decided that while the law required that Paul Vallas could only stay on as the head of Bridgeport’s school system if he completed a school leadership program at a Connecticut institution of higher education, Pryor would allow Vallas to stay if he only took a three-credit independent study class instead.

And now we have yet another example of playing politics with a case.

The situation developed yesterday in conjunction with the case of SEBAC V. Rell.

Back in 2001, in a fit of rage and political maneuvering, Governor John Rowland laid off 2,800 unionized state employees.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Rowland and Marc Ryan, his secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, had violated the law because the layoffs were only targeted toward union members.  Rowland’s action was so egregious that the court actually ruled that Rowland and Ryan should be held personally liable for the impact of their action.

As he court explained at the time, the “Defendants [Rowland and Ryan] have not shown why the state’s fiscal health required firing only union members, rather than implementing membership-neutral layoffs.”

The court went on to say that the firings “were ordered as a means of trying to compel the plaintiff unions to agree to the concessions demanded…As plaintiffs have shown that defendants fired employees based on their union membership without narrowly tailoring the terminations to a vital government interest, plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment on their First Amendment targeting claims.”

In essence, the court ruled that Rowland’s decision to fire only union members was illegal because it was nothing more than an effort to silence and punish the union and its members,

Since the decision in the SEBAC v. Rowland was handed down when Malloy was governor, the Malloy administration had the choice of working to settle the case or appeal to the United States Supreme Court.  The chance of the Supreme Court taking the case was extremely unlikely.

The appropriate solution was simple and straight-forward.  Sit down and negotiate a settlement.

But the politics superseded the policy and Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s support, announced that they were going to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Then yesterday, Jepsen, once again with Malloy’s approval, said he is withdrawing his petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case and would sit down with the unions to settle the case.

As reported by CT Newsjunkie, when asked why he was withdrawing the petition for review, Jepsen said “This is the time of maximum leverage…If the petition for review was denied three or four months from now, the state would be sitting across the negotiating table from an “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards.”

An “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards?”

Governor Rowland broke the law by firing 2,800 state employees.  Rowland, not the state employees was the adversary.

Malloy and Jepsen could have sat down and negotiated a settlement at any time.

Instead they decided to play politics with the case, initially saying they’d appeal to the Supreme Court and now backing off that stance.

And now they say they want to settle to prevent the state employees and their unions from becoming an “emboldened advisory who’s holding most of the cards.”

Once again, elected officials seem committed to placing the value of the politics above doing the right thing for the state.

Jepsen and Malloy should never have allowed this case to drag on.

Like the CCJEF v. Rell public school funding law suit, Connecticut’s elected officials should make doing the right thing their top priority and leave the politics for another time.

Enough is enough.  Instead of scapegoating Connecticut’s public schools students or state employees, Jepsen and Malloy should roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics and settle the CCJEF case and settle the Rowland case.

You can read more about the SEBAC v. Rowland case at:

CT Newsjunkie:  State Withdraws Request For Review of Labor Case Dating Back to Rowland Administration

CT Mirror: Risking second guessing, Jepsen opens negotiations in union case against Rowland

Courant:  Jepsen Won’t Appeal Union Victory In Layoff Case

 

ALERT/UPDATE: Arbitrator rules against Malloy Administration on significant retirement issue

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Yesterday, I posted this blog about rumors spreading that the Malloy Administration has lost a massive arbitration ruling concerning the retirement incentive that was offered to some but not all state employees.  The details remain confusing.  An arbitration award or awards have certainly been made that require the state and SEBAC to negotiate and action to be taken by the State Retirement Commission.  I will update as details become available.   What is clear is that according to State employees knowledgeable  about the situation, there are employees who should have been given the opportunity to utilize retirement incentives, but were not given that opportunity and the problem must now be rectified.

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Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, word is spreading that the Malloy Administration has lost a massive arbitration ruling today.

Last summer, the Connecticut State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) filed a grievance against the Malloy Administration with the Connecticut Board of Labor Relations.

The complaint revolved around the Malloy Administration’s unilateral decision to
offer to certain employees the ability to retire with 25 years of service regardless of age.”  According to labor unions, Malloy’s representatives made this offer without fulfilling their bargaining responsibility with SEBAC and without making it available to all state employees.

At the time, SEBAC challenged Malloy’s action because it was;

“(1) Unfair to employees who learned about them, because it forced those employees to make a critical life-changing decision without full information or the opportunity to change their minds; and

(2) Unfair to the vast majority of employees, who management never informed about the offer at all and thus were never given any opportunity to decide.”

Union leaders demanded that the offer be made available to all eligible state employees and that employees be given an adequate time frame to make a decision.

The Malloy Administration refused and filed a State Prohibitive Practice complaint.

Apparently, earlier today, an arbitrator ruled against the Malloy Administration.

If true, the state may now be forced to negotiate a process to give all employees the ability to retire, regardless of age, as long as they have at least 25 years of service.

There are also rumors that the Malloy Administration lost on a second major issue related to the fact that it gave managers longevity bonuses when unionized employees went without those payments.

Stay tuned – more to come.

CT Budget Update: Connecticut’s State Budget Begins to Collapse; Pension “Savings” – Prime Example of Efforts to Mislead

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For months, Governor Malloy and his administration have been assuring the media and the public that this year’s budget was balanced and next year’s budget included a hefty surplus that could be used for – among other things – the education reforms that are being discussed and trumpeted in Hartford.

Last week, an independent report came out that revealed that while the State Employee Pension Fund was doing marginally better, the pension savings that the Malloy Administration had promised would come from changes negotiated in the Malloy/SEBAC agreement were not amounting to anything close to what they had promised.

In fact, it was fluctuations in the Stock Market and the state’s return on investments, and not the pension changes, that were providing the funds needed to balance that portion of the state budget.

As is their style, the Malloy Administration brushed away concerns and criticisms about their inaccurate estimates and stayed true to their rhetoric saying that everything was fine, all the Malloy/SEBAC savings would be achieved and the budget was balanced.

Yesterday we learned that the problems go much deeper than simply getting it wrong on the pension fund savings.

Early this month, the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management projected that the state was on track to have an$80 million dollar surplus.  Yesterday, that same office, in a joint report with the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, revealed that tax revenue was down at least $95 million in this fiscal year (FY12) and would be down another $139 million next year.

Connecticut went from a surplus to a deficit in one day.

Of course, the problem has been known for a while, but the Administration chose to keep the information secret hoping that something would change.

OPM has claimed that they could not project income tax revenues until January 15, 2012, the date the last quarter income tax withholding reports were due.

Yet, as every accountant and business owner knows, a company and individual’s overall tax situation is almost always evident by the quarterly report that was due on September 15, 2011.  That date was moved and as information came in OPM simply decided that they would not share their tax information with the rest of us.

The first victim of this budget collapse appears to be the Governor’s promised effort to shift the state toward GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

For More information about this development check out CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/balanced_budget_forecast_begins_to_unravel/ and CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/15087/budget-hovers-brink-deficit-malloys-fiscal-cushion-erodes-quickly..

Meanwhile, let’s return for a moment to the news about the State Employee Pension Fund because it is such a perfect example of this Administration’s approach to state budgeting.

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, in February 2011, Governor Malloy announced that in addition to tax increases and budget cuts he would balance the state’s upcoming bi-annual budget with $2 billion in savings from state employees.

As one of the loudest critics of the governor’s approach, I’ve been writing about this topic on a regular basis, going so far as to state that there was no way those savings could be achieved.

When the Malloy/SEBAC agreement was reached, the parties announced that it would save the state $1.6 billion over the next two years rather than the promised $2 billion. [The difference was made up by sliding a larger than expected surplus in FY11 to FY12].

The Malloy/SEBAC savings were scheduled to come from a variety of different areas including the freeze in state employee wages, the elimination of longevity payments, changes to the state employee healthcare and pension system and a number of targeted budget reductions.  The non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis could only confirm the value of about one-third of the savings.

But the Malloy Administration remained adamant that it would get all the savings it projected.

The changes to the state employee pension system were calculated to save the state $237 million this year.

Late last week, Keith Phaneuf of the CTMirror, explained the latest development with the pension fund in his “must read” article – see: http://ctmirror.org/story/15039/pension-report .

In order to balance the state budget in 2009-2010, Governor Rell negotiated an agreement with the state employee unions that allowed the state to reduce its payments to the Connecticut State Employee Pension Fund.

Rell and the Democratic Legislature decided to forgo about $314 million in pension fund contributions.

The impact from the reduced payments and drop in the stock market left the State Employee Pension fund with assets of about $9 billion and long-term obligations of $21 billion (or a funded ratio of 44.4 percent – one of the lowest ratios in the country – the appropriate funding ratio is in the range of 80 percent).

Last week, a new actuarial report on the Connecticut’s State Employee Pension Fund has determined that the fund now has assets of $10 billion dollars with long-term obligations of $21 billion (or a funded ratio of 47.9 percent).

The immediate effect of this development is that this year Connecticut will have to make a pension contribution of $926 million instead of the $939 million that was part of this year’s approved budget. (A savings of $13 million)

Thanks primarily to the bizarre ups and downs of the US stock market, the State Employee Pension Fund got over 21 percent on its investment over the last year compared to the 8.25% that was expected.

Although the expected pension savings from the Malloy/SEBAC” agreement did not materialize, this piece of the budget balanced thanks to the incredible return the Fund received.

The new actuarial report is vague but it appears that about $67.5 million of the $237 million expected savings (about 28 percent) was the result of the pension agreement while well over 70 percent of the goal was achieved due to the return on investments.

In what has now become a classic response, Ben Barnes, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, told the CTMirror “thank heaven it was with us [the stock market growth], but market timing wasn’t really a factor for us.”

Meaning what?

The state projected that it would save $237 million in pension costs as a result of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement.

It failed to do that, but thanks to the stock market and investments, the state got that money that it needed; which is good news.

Sticking to his political “talking points”, and despite the recent evidence, Secretary Barnes said that he remains confident that the Malloy/SEBAC agreement will, in fact, save the state $700 million this year and $900 million next year.

And for the record, I remain convinced that the Malloy/SEBAC agreement will not achieve the amount of savings that have been projected and along with the “new” news that revenues are down, Connecticut’s State Budget is far from balanced.

Phew: Connecticut Needs to Pay Only $926 million to the State Pension Fund this Year.

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Stock Market Provides Key to Meeting State’s Pension Goal

Background:  In February 2011, Governor Malloy announced that in addition to tax increases and budget cuts he would balance the state’s upcoming bi-annual budget with $2 billion in savings from state employees.

As one of the loudest critics of the governor’s approach, I’ve been writing about this topic on a regular basis, going so far as to state that there was no way those savings could be achieved.

When the Malloy/SEBAC agreement was reached, the parties announced that it would save the state $1.6 billion over the next two years rather than the promised $2 billion. [The difference was made up by sliding a larger than expected surplus in FY11 to FY12].

The Malloy/SEBAC savings were scheduled to come from a variety of different areas including the freeze in state employee wages, the elimination of longevity payments, changes to the state employee healthcare and pension system and a number of targeted budget reductions.  The non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis could only confirm the value of about one-third of the savings.

But the Malloy Administration remained adamant that it would get all the savings it projected.

The changes to the state employee pension system were calculated to save the state $237 million this year.

Late last week, Keith Phaneuf of the CTMirror, explained the latest development with the pension fund in his “must read” article – see: http://ctmirror.org/story/15039/pension-report .

In order to balance the state budget in 2009-2010, Governor Rell negotiated an agreement with the state employee unions that allowed the state to reduce its payments to the Connecticut State Employee Pension Fund.

Rell and the Democratic Legislature decided to forgo about $314 million in pension fund contributions.

The impact from the reduced payments and drop in the stock market left the State Employee Pension fund with assets of about $9 billion and long-term obligations of $21 billion (or a funded ratio of 44.4 percent – one of the lowest ratios in the country – the appropriate funding ratio is in the range of 80 percent).

Last week, a new actuarial report on the Connecticut’s State Employee Pension Fund has determined that the fund now has assets of $10 billion dollars with long-term obligations of $21 billion (or a funded ratio of 47.9 percent).

The immediate effect of this development is that this year Connecticut will have to make a pension contribution of $926 million instead of the $939 million that was part of this year’s approved budget. (A savings of $13 million)

Thanks primarily to the bizarre ups and downs of the US stock market, the State Employee Pension Fund got over 21 percent on its investment over the last year compared to the 8.25% that was expected.

Although the expected pension savings from the Malloy/SEBAC” agreement did not materialize, this piece of the budget balanced thanks to the incredible return the Fund received.

The new actuarial report is vague but it appears that about $67.5 million of the $237 million expected savings (about 28 percent) was the result of the pension agreement while well over 70 percent of the goal was achieved due to the return on investments.

In what has now become a classic response, Ben Barnes, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, told the CTMirror “thank heaven it was with us [the stock market growth], but market timing wasn’t really a factor for us.”

Meaning what?

The state projected that it would save $237 million in pension costs as a result of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement.

It failed to do that, but thanks to the stock market and investments, the state got that money that it needed; which is good news.

Sticking to his political “talking points”, and despite the recent evidence, Secretary Barnes said that he remains confident that the Malloy/SEBAC agreement will, in fact, save the state $700 million this year and $900 million next year.

And for the record, I remain convinced that it will not.

Yes it does! No it doesn’t! Yes it does! No it doesn’t!

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(cross-posted from CTNewsjunkie)

That summarizes the dispute over the “value” of the $1.6 billion dollar concession agreement.

A little secret about how to determine who is telling the truth.

Reading the back and forth between Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes and House Minority Leader Larry Cafero you’d think you were listening to an argument between two 10-year-olds on a playground.

OPM Secretary Barnes recently told reporters that he is “100 percent confident that the deal will yield $1.6 billion: $700 million in savings in the fiscal year that began July 1 and $900 million the following year.”

Cafero, using data provided by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, says Barnes has inflated the number and there is no way that state is going to achieve that level of savings.

After that it quickly deteriorates into name calling.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has risen above that fray to repeatedly point out that this labor agreement is the structural change Connecticut has needed to get back on track.

As is so often the case in American politics, the two sides of trying so hard to argue their respective positions that they have – at least to some degree – bypassed the truth.

The fact is the Malloy/SEBAC agreement will NOT lead to $1.6 billion in savings over the next 22 months but that doesn’t mean that the Malloy administration can’t provide a balanced state budget for this year and next.

First off the governor and legislature have built a significant surplus into this year’s budget to help balance things out should additional dollars be needed to cover expenses next year, which is an election year.  While it is hard to tell exactly how much extra has been built in, between excess revenue and funds hidden in various accounts such as the post-employment healthcare line there could be a quarter of a billion or more that can be used to cover up any shortfall that may occur from the $1.6 billion concession package.

Second, while Governor Malloy has repeatedly said (even this week) that he will not allow any additional taxes to be raised, Barnes, his budget director, is very open about the need and likelihood of raising additional fees to access certain services.

Third, thanks to Connecticut’s second gas tax (the wholesale tax on gasoline); the high gas prices continue to produce a windfall of revenue for the state.  Rather than use those extra funds to pay for transportation expenses the dollars are going into the General Fund where they can be used to help balance the budget.

Fourth, while Wall Street has taken a real hit the past couple of weeks; any recovery there will help push up state revenues since Wall Street bonuses and pay increase income tax receipts.

And finally, while the governor’s super authority to cut the budget evaporates on Sept. 1, he will continue to have his traditional statutory authority to cut up to 5 percent of any given line item in the budget (except municipal aid).  He can and will use this power to cut programs and services to make sure the budget is balanced.

So while the state may not get $1.6 billion in savings from the concession package it certainly helps the Malloy administration balance the state budget.

But the bigger issue is that Malloy has been clear from the start.  This concession package was not about simply balancing the budget.  Malloy has consistently said it was about forcing structural change.

The term “unsustainable” has been Malloy’s second most used phrase behind “shared sacrifice.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Malloy said, yet again, that “The real significance of this agreement lies in the long-term savings it produces for taxpayers and the state of Connecticut,” and that what he negotiated with the unions will create the “systemic change” that will create a sustainable relationship with Connecticut’s state employees.

So what are the elements of that long-term relationship?

(1) Unfunded Pension Liabilities:

As of June 30 Connecticut’s state employee pension fund needed an additional $12 billion dollars in order to fully fund its obligations. Reduce the total liabilities of the State Employees Retirement Fund by the total assets and you have the figure that is called the unfunded liability.  Most states maintain a funding ratio for their employee pension funds of between 75 percent and 125 percent. Connecticut had a funding ratio of about 52 percent before the economic downturn and before former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, SEBAC and the legislature agreed to defer a couple hundred million in pension payments in order to balance the budget over the last few years.  The latest estimate is that Connecticut funding ratio has dropped us to the absolute bottom of the list with a pension fund ratio of only 46 percent.

If Malloy is correct and the labor agreement provides for significant structural change then the state’s pension fund liability should drop dramatically and the state’s funding ratio should go up dramatically.

The next regularly schedule actuarial report isn’t due until June 30, 2012 but the Malloy administration could strengthen its credibility on this issue by having an actuarial assessment done now to see if the changes are really as significant as he says they are.

[By the way, the underlying problem is that about 75 percent of the state’s liabilities are due to Tier I retirees and employees (or other existing retirees).  Over 88 percent of all Tier I employees have already retired. Furthermore, since the labor agreement did not impact Tier 1 employees and only penalized the far less generous Tier II and Tier IIA retirement employees, contrary to what the Governor and Secretary Barnes have said, it is unlikely that this agreement has dramatically reduced Connecticut’s long-term pension obligation).

(2) Unfunded Retirees Health Benefits:

The other major long term state employee related state obligation is the retiree health benefits.

The state of Connecticut has not put ANY funds aside to pay for these required future expenses and instead has opted for a “pay-as-you-go” system in which the state only allocates enough money each year to pay for that year’s out of pocket expenses for retiree health insurance.

As of last June the unfunded liability for retiree health benefits was projected to about $27 billion dollars.

The labor agreement does include a provision requiring all state employees to pay 3 percent of their salary for a period of 10 years into a new retiree healthcare fund that would then be used to over-set the existing $27 billion state liability.

The 3 percent payment – a year for 10 years – was implemented for younger state employees as part of the previous Rell/SEBAC agreement.  The Malloy/SEBAC agreement would expand that program for all state employees starting with 1/2 of 1 percent in FY ’13, 2 percent in FY ’15 and 3% in FY 15.

The 3 percent a year would equate to about $224 million a year. Over 10 years this would provide $2.24 billion or (if I have done my math correctly) about 8 percent of the funds needed to cover the existing liability. The Malloy/SEBAC agreement does require that the state deposit an equal amount into the new fund.  Not counting for the benefit of compounding, the new play means that employees and the state would be putting in about 16 percent of what is needed over a 10 year period.  While that is a critical step forward it doesn’t provide the funds necessary to cover the costs that they state is obligated to pay.

In any case, as with the state’s long-term pension obligation, instead of bickering about who is right and who is wrong, the Malloy administration could put an end to this whole debate by ordering an actuarial assessment on both the state’s pension obligation and the state’s healthcare obligation.

In that way, the public could have the information necessary to look past the Barnes vs. Cafero argument and judge whether the Malloy administration is or is not accurate when it says this agreement deals with what the governor has called the unsustainable relationship with its employees.

Concession package – budget balanced – all is good with the world

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With passage of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement the unnecessarily long and unnecessarily difficult process comes to an end.

Governor Malloy said this agreement was needed or he’d layoff thousands and shred the safety net. He said there was no other option.

Meanwhile there was never a doubt that Connecticut’s state employees were ready to make major concessions in order to save programs, services and jobs.

But power politics, political pandering and just plain meanness got in the way … and so here we are.

Now the Governor can rescind the layoffs and the extra cuts including the especially deep and offensive cuts to the good government agencies (Freedom of Information, Ethics and Elections Enforcement).

Meanwhile, there are so many issues and questions that remain unanswered — but most of those can wait for another day.

Just two quick questions;

(1). Will the Governor rescind the layoffs for the state employees who staffed the state’s consumer utility hot line? Remember Commissioner Esty eliminated the program even though it is paid for by the utility companies and even though every other state has a hot line for consumers who have problems with their utility companies.

(2). Now that Section 8 of the emergency budget is no longer needed -
The Governor no longer has the power to cut more than 10% of any given line it. But we still don’t know how this “secret” section made it through the Legislature. Its time for the Malloy Administration and the Democratic Legislative leaders to come clean and tell the public what happened.

Even the bully says bring in your lunch money OR I will beat you up…

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(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Not, I will beat you up until you bring in your lunch money.

I’ve read some crazy stuff over the past six months as Connecticut meanders towards a budget resolution but the Hartford Courant takes the cake with their recent editorial entitled “State Employee Pink Slips Can’t Stop” and applauds the Governor’s decision to “continue with layoffs till unions vote.”

I actually had to read the commentary piece a few times before I could bring myself to believe what they were saying.

According to the Courant’s editorial,” If Mr. Malloy rescinded the layoffs now, the unions would have little incentive to vote on the agreement with dispatch” adding “ Mr. Malloy has to keep the pressure on by continuing apace with the layoffs plan.”

Wait, let me get this right.

If the Governor puts the layoffs on hold union members would be more likely to vote against the agreement?

The Courant’s editorial writers have no concept of how the collective bargaining process works and worse, are either ignorant or uncaring about the impact layoffs have on the families receiving those notices.

As a result of the Governor’s approach, another 600 Connecticut families (and maybe far more) will face the daunting challenge of becoming unemployed.

Gone will be their bi-weekly check that many use to pay their mortgage or day to day expenses.

Instead these families will have to turn to an overburdened Connecticut unemployment system.

Also gone is their health care insurance.

Beyond the incredible amount of wasted time and lowered productivity as both the state and the laid off employee spend their time filling out paperwork, these families – like thousands of other laid off Connecticut workers – will now be preparing for the school year by reducing their purchasing which in turn hurts Connecticut’s already weak economy.

But even putting all of that aside, the Courant editorial is disgustingly insulting.

We aren’t talking about telling a child that they must get their grades up before they can use their Xbox.

We are talking about hard working adults, who are trying to put food on the table, pay their bills, raise their families and remain productive citizens.

I’m not sure if Governor Malloy is writing editorials for the Hartford Courant or the Hartford Courant is writing speeches for Governor Malloy but their approach is cruel, mean-spirited and unnecessary.

Yes, everyone, including Connecticut’s state employees understands that if the Malloy/SEBAC deal fails – thousands of state employees will lose their jobs. In fact, 57 percent of those who cast their votes in round #1 voted yes and there is no reason to believe that the state employees won’t vote in favor again, now that some issues have been “clarified”.

There is simply no excuse for hurting hundreds, perhaps thousands of Connecticut residents.

Let’s face it. If the population being impacted was deemed a “valued” one, worthy of being treated with humanity, neither the Governor nor the Courant would be say “whatever you do, don’t stop punching them until they hand over their money.”

Malloy/SEBAC Deal Reached: Malloy’s “Classy” Response Slams State Employees – Yet Again

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(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Once again Dan Malloy’s rhetoric seeks to scapegoat Connecticut’s public employees and trivialize the fact that they have already voted in favor (and are working to fully adopt) the largest concession package in state history.

From his budget announcement last February to his press statement last night Dan Malloy has consistently said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

At 10pm last night Governor Malloy released a statement that an agreement has been reached between his administration and SEBAC and that another vote would be taken on a concession package.

According to Malloy, “This agreement saves the same amount of money as the last agreement– $1.6 billion over 2 years, $21.5 billion over 20 years – and it contains all of the same cost-saving provisions as the last agreement.”

With that, the Governor then concludes;

“I hope state employees ratify this agreement, but I am assuming nothing. If they ratify it, the vast majority of layoffs and painful spending cuts can be undone.  If this agreement fails, then we’ll unfortunately have to continue to lay people off and implement the spending cuts.”

And with that the Governor renews his familiar role of making this process as difficult as possible.

With the SEBAC by-law changes, 50% of state employees must now adopt this plan to fully authorize it.  Originally 57% voted yes (when 80% was needed).  The language related to the health care change that worried many state employees as been removed to ensure that no one thinks this agreement is part of SustiNet – the State’s comprehensive health care reform law.

Governor, continuing to lay people off pending the vote is mean-spirited, bad for the employees and the families of those being laid off, bad for the people who rely on the essential services these employees provide and bad for the state’s economy during the greatest recession of our lives.

Malloy could and should have suspended the layoffs pending the vote.

And yet again we see the double standard.

If a Republican governor was doing what this Governor is doing and if a Republican governor put out a press release like the one Malloy put out last night, Democratic elected officials would be condemning the action.

But regardless of whether Democratic legislators are silent, Malloy’s actions deserve to be criticized.

Thankfully, Connecticut’s state employees care more than this Governor when it comes to preserving vital
services and doing the right thing.

Politicians engaging in policy by rhetoric is common place; but it is disappointing when the State’s “Newspaper of Record” engages in that practice

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(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Dear Courant Editorial Writers;

In your editorial today you lectured state employees saying “Repeat after the governor: ‘clarifying’ doesn’t mean ‘better’ and then you go on to say that state employees should expect “no more sugar.”

At no time during the last few weeks did I hear any state employees demanding “more sugar.”

There were significant concerns raised about some of the health care language (as you note).

And I’m sure you too heard a lot of disgust with the way Governor Malloy (and SEBAC for that matter) handled the entire process.

Personally, I’m convinced that had the Governor returned to the table to “clarify” the issues the day they went down and then did a bit better in retraining his anti-state employee rhetoric, a clarified agreement would have already been adopted – by a super majority no less – and the July 1st raises would not now be an issue.

Now that SEBAC has changed its process the concerns can be quickly addressed and with a majority vote and the state government will get the largest concession package in state history.

Quite frankly, the assumption that states employees are trying to “get” a little more is not only absurd but insulting.

As you, yourselves, point out in your editorial, not only will this agreement balance the FY12-FY14 state budget but it will begin the process of putting “the cost of Connecticut’s state government on a sustainable footing for the long haul — by reining in health and pension costs”.  Reading the courant editorials of late make me think you are actually writing them based on the rhetoric that is floating around rather than on the facts.

I understand politicians engaging in policy by rhetoric but it is certainly disappointing when it comes from the State’s “newspaper of record.”

Governor – just a thought – why don’t you actually roll up your shirt sleeves and help make this Malloy/SEBAC agreement happen…

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Yesterday, Governor Malloy was up in Litchfield Country touting tourism (something his revised budget cut deeply).

His message, for all to hear, was that he wanted an agreement with state employees finalized in the next 24 or 48 hours but he also made it clear that his plans for massive layoffs would continue (pending such an agreement).

Malloy said, “”We don’t have an approved agreement. We’ve been down this road. We will continue the process of notifications and laying people off, of moving forward as if there is no agreement in place.”

Yeah, Governor, we get it…you “mean business.”

You recognize that fear is a greater motivator and you certainly know how to give a good gratuitous kick to those that fear losing their jobs

But since you are the State’s chief operating officer and you say you really want to get this package done, how about taking a day off the PR trail, sitting down with the state employee unions, talking through the issues and actually help charter a new course for the state.

You talk about the structural changes that are needed and you certainly recognize that the $1.6 billion to balance the budget pales to the $20 billion you say an agreement will save the state over the next 20 years.

When  you think about it, it is really hard to imagine that anything – anything at all – could be more important to the future of this state than your actual participation in making this agreement happen.

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