Embarrassment Mixed with A Heavy Dose of Anger

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Apologies for the typos in this blog post….tried posting from a blackberry…. will never try that again!

Since there are comments attached, I’ll fix a couple of problems but won’t take it down.

That’s about how I’d explain my feelings as I watch the train wreck that is taking place in Hartford.

The Governor, elected as a Democrat, seems increasingly comfortable with his role as Lead Bully in the ongoing effort to scapegoat Connecticut’s
public employees. As if reading from the script of an old western that they jacked Malloy looks into the camera, narrows his eyes and proclaims, as
recorded in the CT Mirror, “They know the deadline. I know the deadline…There’s not a lot of time before we have to start to do things.”

Meanwhile, Malloy and his political spinners talk, as if they deserve praise, that he has decided to delay sending out 4,700 layoff notices for an additional day and remain “hopeful” that state employees will capitulate and produce $2 billion dollars in concessions that are needed…

Or the Governor will be forced take it out on Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens by implementing devastating cuts to the state’s safety
net and other vital programs.

And through all this, as noted previously, there is nothing but silence and complicity from Connecticut’s other Democratic leaders.

For more on the latest check out http://ctmirror.org/story/12520/layoff-notices-hold-again-talks-continue and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_remains_hopeful_but_time_is_running_short/

Or perhaps skip straight to Colin McEnroe commentary piece in yesterday’s Hartford Courant entitled “A Budget In Wonderland” where he writes “I was trying to remember whether I had ever seen this done before. I have covered many state budgets but have then usually engaged in  trepanation  — the primitive process of punching a hole in the skull to treat intracranial diseases such as seizures, migraines or remembering speeches by former Sen. Richard Bozzutto. I don’t think I remember the state passing a budget $1 billion of which will be arrived at a later date by some combination of threats and finagling. I think it’s even in the constitution that the budget has to balance…But then I think: “Hold on, Mr. Gloomy! Turn that frown upside down! When did you start insisting that the Connecticut legislature and governor make sense? That’s like demanding that Lewis Carroll be bound by the laws of physics.”

Stay tuned, more to come.

Malloy Delays Layoff Notices….till next week?

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Earlier today the  Malloy Administration informed the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) negotiators that they will NOT BE issuing layoff notices to unionized state employees before next week.

Whether the decision was based on politics or policy remains a mystery.

Perhaps the Governor’s people realized that bullying tactics would backfire.

More details as they become available.

Malloy Ramps Up His Psychological War on State Employees

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REVISED AND UPDATED  (cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

The ugly truth facing Connecticut became increasingly apparent Wednesday as Governor Malloy signed into law a new state budget that is $2 billion out of balance.

A budget that from the very beginning was designed to fail while making Connecticut’s public employees the scapegoats for the state’s fiscal problems.

Over the last 48 hours, relying on unachievable concessions from Connecticut’s state employees, Democratic Legislators approved Governor Malloy’s plan that will eventually lead to massive cuts to vital services.

Rather than confront that truth and raise sufficient revenue or identify and approve additional cuts the Democratic majority held fast to the lie that $2 billion in concessions could be achieved.

However, with only 45,000 active state employees, a legal impediment to reducing the benefits provided to retirees and a legacy of underfunding Connecticut’s state employee pension and health care costs it is literally impossible to achieve a $2 billion concessions package that would survive the negotiation and approval process.

Now, with the budget approved, this twisted approach to governing moves forward as the Governor announces that tomorrow he will issue 4,000 lay-off notices and that “everything is on the table” for additional cuts.

The magnitude of the budget lie is becoming apparent.

4,000 Connecticut state employees and their families now wait in fear for the news that their lives will be plunged into chaos as they are thrown into the world of unemployment during the greatest economic downturn of the past 50 years.

Adding insult to injury, laying off 4,000 employees will not only impact the quality and availability of important state services but it will only “save” the state about $300 million leaving a hole of at least $700 million in the coming year’s budget.

According to the Governor’s rhetoric, this “deficit” will only be eliminated through additional cuts rather than additional revenues – despite the fact that the new budget gave Connecticut’s super wealthy a pass on being required to pay their fair share in taxes.

Cutting $700 million more on top of the record cuts that have already been adopted will have a profound and devastating impact on Connecticut’s most essential services.  The quality of life for tens of thousands, including some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens is now at risk because legislators would not face the reality that they were voting on a fraudulent budget plan.

Meanwhile, like so many politicians around the country, Governor Malloy continues to blame this impending disaster on public employees as he ramps up a game of psychological warfare to force concessions and set the stage for cuts in services that can then be blamed on the state’s workers.

And as this horrible strategy plays out there is nothing but silence from Connecticut’s Democratic officeholders.

Imagine if Pratt & Whitney announced 4,000 layoffs.

No, better yet, think back to the times that Pratt has announced layoffs of far fewer employees.  Rallies with Democratic politicians on the picket line calling for investigations, demanding meetings and charging that the company is engaged in union busting.

But now when the shoe is on the other foot and a Democratic CEO who is unfairly targeting employees….Silence.

Hypocrites!

Psychological warfare or political gimmick gone bad

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

Connecticut media are abuzz today with reports that Gov. Dannel Malloy’s “Plan B” to dealing with historic deficits ($1 billion in concessions from public-sector workers) may be cutting $1 billion in state aid to Connecticut’s  cities and towns.

The question is whether this is another case of Malloy’s psychological warfare to demonize Connecticut’s state employees or a political gimmick gone bad.

For an administration that can’t get out of campaign mode, the evidence actually suggests the latter.

The Associated Press reports that, “Connecticut cities and towns would lose one-third of their state aid under a contingency plan Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has requested in case there is no agreement on $1 billion in union savings and concessions to help balance his budget.”

The Malloy administration has even created a list that reduces every local government’s state aid by 35.83 percent.

However, when the Connecticut Post asked Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor, about the $1 billion cut-list (which was leaked to the Post on Tuesday), he said it was developed in response to complaints about why Malloy hadn’t balanced Connecticut’s budget without raising taxes.

Occhiogrosso said cutting $1 billion in aid to cities and towns would be like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to cut $4.65 billion in aid to New York’s cities and towns. Occhiogrosso pointed out that the cut-list’s town-by-town breakdown indicates just how devastating a $1 billion cut would be.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the state’s primary lobbying arm for local governments (and an organization that Malloy once chaired) called the plan a “doomsday budget.” It said: “A billion-dollar cut in municipal aid will result in massive municipal employee and teacher layoffs across the state.”

Yet later that same day (Tuesday), the governor’s office was handing out the $1 billion breakdown to reporters and Occhiogrosso was saying to the Associated Press and other media “There are only so many places where you can go to get large sums of money to get to $1 billion, if that number is not reached in discussions with labor … Municipal aid is certainly one of those places. It represents a large portion of the budget.”

Occhiogrosso added “There are different scenarios being looked at — municipal aid, reduction in state agencies’ (budgets), several different scenarios. The governor’s been pretty clear that one thing will not happen. Taxes will not rise beyond what he has already proposed … Everything else is on the table.”

So what exactly is this “doomsday budget”?

Is it a document designed to explain Malloy’s decision not to use Cuomo’s approach. Or is it a genuine plan to destroy every town’s local budget and local school system if state employees are unable to come up with the unachievable $1 billion in concessions.

Either way, it is a maneuver more in line with a political campaign than the thoughtful approach of a chief executive.

For me, the primary clue to what is going down is that Malloy’s town-by-town breakdown does not differentiate between towns that could survive a massive cut in aid and those that could not. Whomever authorized this list decided to simply cut 35.83 percent from every town. No reasonable policymaker, especially no Democrat, would ever propose cutting municipal aid by the same percent in every town.

The fact is a cut in municipal aid of more than a third to a town like Greenwich, with its extraordinary tax base and limited municipal demands, would create far less damage than a similar cut to a city like Hartford or Bridgeport.

It is more than far-fetched to think that this $1 billion cut-list could really be part of Malloy’s “Plan B”.

The Malloy people would do themselves and the state a big favor by developing a “real” Plan B if they can’t squeeze the billion from the state’s employees.

“Time for Malloy to come clean”

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

A “shout out” and thanks to Keith Burris, the editor of the Journal Inquirer, for adding his voice to the call for Governor Malloy to reveal his “secret” plan to get $2 billion in concessions from Connecticut’s state employees. 

The Middletown Press ran Burris’ piece here – Time for Malloy to come clean  

On the issue of the Governor’s proposed solution to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis and his plan to balance the budget with $2 billion in employee concessions, Burris points out that “there is one massive gap in the governor’s mathematic and political reasoning…We still do not know where Malloy expects the state employees to make their sacrifices.  Where, exactly, will the billion a year come from?”

Malloy has repeatedly talked about shared sacrifice and transparency in government and Burris successfully calls Malloy to task when he writes “The time has come for the governor to reveal to us what he has proposed to the unions. In fairness to state workers and in fairness to the taxpayers, tell us what the plan is.”

Governor Malloy’s budget does rely on $2 billion is employee savings. 

Malloy’s advisor and spokesman has even gone so far as to say that they have a plan to achieve that number but they will not reveal it.

Burris’ response to Malloy’s secret plan is absolutely correct.

“Tell us what you are proposing to the unions, Governor.  Put your cards on the table.  The public has a right to know.  It will only help your credibility and your bargaining position to reveal what is behind that curtain.”

Hopefully others will pick up the call as well.  It’s time for Malloy to “come clean” on his secret plan.

And so it begins…

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Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

When Governor Malloy submitted his Connecticut State Budget proposal in February it included $1 billion dollars in employee concessions for FY 12 and another billion for FY 13.

Those who appreciate the realities of how Connecticut’s budget works recognized immediately that such a figure was not achievable.   There was simply no way that $1 billion dollars in employee savings could be achieved in one fiscal year.

Malloy Walks the Picket Line

The question was and remains today – why would the Governor propose a budget that he knew was destined to be as much as $500 million or more out of balance?

Sadly, the clues were immediate.

At the time, Malloy said that “if” the concessions were not forthcoming, but he was confident that they would be achieved, he would be forced to lay off thousands and shred the State’s safety net.  He was very clear.  The blame for this catastrophe would rest solely on the heads of Connecticut’s state employees.

And now the next phase in this drama has begun…

On Friday, the CT Mirror ran a story entitled “Municipal aid is at stake in Malloy’s talks with labor

The story leads with a quote from Malloy’s top advisor Roy Occhiogrosso, who said “All the assumptions will have to be re-examined, because he is committed to producing a balanced budget with no gimmicks, and if the savings don’t materialize there are only so many places to go for money…Municipal aid is one of those places.”

Faced with the inevitable failure to pull $1 billion dollars out of Connecticut’s state employees, the Malloy administration is now ramping up their rhetoric. 

As a result of their inability to produce $1 billion in concessions, state employees will now not only be responsible for putting many of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens at risk, but we are now learning that aid to cities and towns will be cut and the corresponding local property taxes increases that will be needed will be another tribute the state employees’s failure to produce the appropriate savings.

Yet the Malloy Administration has never admitted that the number they are demanding from Connecticut’s state employees is “almost double what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo obtained from his much larger work force.”

And even worse, although the Malloy Administration says it has a detailed concession plan that amounts to $1 billion dollars they refuse to make their “secret plan” public.

Although rank and file state employees seem almost unanimously committed to doing their fair share to balance Connecticut’s budget, few – if any – understand the extent to which they have been set up to fail.

This is a dark time for Connecticut’s state employees and it will get darker in the coming days as the Malloy Administration announces with ‘”surprise” that the $1 billion dollars in concessions cannot be achieved.

I’m sorry, what was that about excessive state employee salaries?

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Courtesy CTMirror

Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

FACT #1:     Ben Barnes, Malloy’s new Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management receives a salary of $187,000 a year.  Ben, one of the brightest guys you will ever meet, has 7 years of experience as a government employee.  Ben also holds a master’s degree.

FACT #2:     Robert Genuario, who served as OPM Secretary for 5 years under Jodi Rell left last year with a salary of $163,910.08.  He had 29 years of experience in government, 19 of which were at the state level.  In addition to his 5 years at OPM, he served for 14 years as a State Senator, for 8 of which he as the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.  Bob holds a law degree.

So Ben, with only 37% of the experience Bob had – and a Master’s Degree rather than a Juris doctorate – is being paid $23,000 more.

As Governor Malloy demands unprecedented state employee givebacks that could equal 20% or more of the value of their salary he might want to think about the message he is sending by complaining about the high cost of state employees.

What is that line about people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Malloy Threatens Public Employees – Happy Friday!

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Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

“Nasty and Ugly” –  The latest word from Governor Malloy.

According to veteran reporter Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post, Governor Malloy said today that state employees are running out of time.

Malloy apparently said that the unions have about a month before he will to come up with $2 billion dollars in concessions or he’ll order thousands of layoffs and other cuts.  In the past Malloy has said that failure to come up with the concessions will mean he will be forced to shred Connecticut’s “safety-net”.  In essence the suffering of tens of thousands of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens will be due to Connecticut’s state employees – not the huge budget deficit, not his unwillingness to make the wealthy pay their fair share…but actually due to state employees.

Malloy is quoted as saying the impact of his actions “would be nasty and ugly.”

So what happened to all the talk of working together?

The Governor Office says that they have a detailed plan that achieves $2 billion in employee concessions but they won’t share it.

Yet even without releasing his “secret plan”, both sides have been saying (as late as yesterday) that productive discussions are moving forward.

And Malloy decides to use this moment to threaten the state employees.

Wow, what happened to our state’s bullying laws?

Dixon’s story can be found here:  Malloy on concessions

Additional information on Malloy’s comments can be found on CTNewsjunkie  Malloy and Unions and CTMirror Malloy

Malloy Threatens Public Employees – Happy Friday!

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Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

“Nasty and Ugly” –  The latest word from Governor Malloy.

According to veteran reporter Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post, Governor Malloy said today that state employees are running out of time.

Malloy apparently said that the unions have about a month before he will to come up with $2 billion dollars in concessions or he’ll order thousands of layoffs and other cuts.  In the past Malloy has said that failure to come up with the concessions will mean he will be forced to shred Connecticut’s “safety-net”.  In essence the suffering of tens of thousands of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens will be due to Connecticut’s state employees.

Malloy is quoted as saying the impact of his actions “would be nasty and ugly.”

So what happened to all the talk of working together? 

The Governor refuses to put forward a detailed plan about his goal of getting $2 billion in employee concessions. 

Yet even without releasing his “secret plan”, both sides have been saying (as late as yesterday) that productive discussions are moving forward.

And Malloy decides to use this moment to threaten the state employees.

Wow, what happened to our state’s bullying laws? 

Dixon’s story can be found here:  Malloy on concessions

Governor, enough! Just tell your people to grow up.

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

Arrogance and bullying is not an appropriate leadership style.

Today’s blog post was supposed to be about some additional policy issues facing the Legislature but after reading the latest CTnewsjunkie story, we must unfortunately return to the issue of how the Malloy administration is dealing with state employees, with criticism of their policies and with the responsibilities associated with governing.

According to the news story, Correction Workers To Fight Concessions, when AFCME Local 391, the union that represents Connecticut’s 5,000 correction workers recently held an executive board meeting, there was a consensus that the members would not support the Malloy Administration’s demand for $1 billion in employee concessions.  The minutes read “The members have spoken and we have heard them loud and clear: No!”

In response, Roy Occhiogrosso, Governor Malloy’s closest advisor, once again, came out firing.  He blasted the correctional guards saying “it’s disappointing to see that kind of rhetoric at the same time we’re being told the unions are negotiating in good faith.”

In response the spokesperson for Connecticut’s state employees pointed out that the Local’s minutes simply reflect the employee’s upset and that “Those concerns and frustrations are legitimate, and a product of years of disregard and disrespect from previous administrations.”

The spokesperson reiterated that the state employee unions remain committed to “the good faith discussions SEBAC is having with the Malloy administration” but he reminded Occhiogrosso that “we are a democratic union…Our members have a right to speak their mind.”

While talking of shared sacrifice and the need to have a “grown up” discussion about the difficult choices facing the state, this Administration seems more interested in belittling those who voice reasonable concerns or have understandable disagreements with their policy proposals.

Three months into their tenure and the Malloy Administration continues to appear unable or unwilling to get out of “campaign mode”.  Dismissive and flip rhetoric may work in the heat of campaigns but it is very much out-of-place in the here and now.

For example, the Governor is fond of saying things like: “The smartest thing the legislature can do is pass this [budget] as quickly as possible and then blame me.” Or: “If I were them, I’d pass it as it is … I think what this does is take the pressure off of them to make the tough decisions.”

Cute phrases to be sure but hardly an appropriate thing to say to the 187 state legislators who have the moral, ethical and Constitutional responsibility to represent their constituents in Hartford.

Meanwhile, the Malloy Administration remains unwilling to share some of the most critical details about their budget plans.

Last week we learned that they do have a “detailed plan” to achieve the unachievable – $2 billion in concessions from the state employees – but that they won’t reveal that plan.

The largest single element of the budget and they don’ t feel the need to share any of the details with the public, the legislators or the media so that people have a chance to understand what is being proposed and how it might impact our state?

Sharing information and allowing debate is not a by-product of a functioning democracy, it is the fundamental requirement that produces a successful democracy.

No one has a monopoly on good ideas.  Pushing back on some of the Governor’s proposals does not mean that we don’t care about Connecticut’s future.  In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

These are difficult times. Hard choices must be made.

To succeed, our elected officials must be committed to promoting respect, understanding, dialogue and debate and this Administration would do well to start acting like the leaders they can and must be if we are to have a chance to overcome the challenges that face our state.

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