Lawmakers to vote on contract for state employees; is the price too high?

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A big vote is on deck this week. Legislators should vote on a four-year contract covering more than 46,000 state workers.

Governor Ned Lamont said he was trying to hold back workers. But a conservative think tank says Connecticut can’t afford the price tag, and many ratepayers agree.

“We have to put food on our tables. We have to put fuel in our cars,” said Anthony Soto, a Labor Department wage investigator.

What’s in the $1.8 billion deal? The independent Office of Fiscal Analysis analyzed the figures.

  • $3,500 bonus for full-time employees
  • 10% increases over four years
  • 2% annual increase
  • Voluntary prescription drug savings

State employees say a 2017 contract included $24 billion in concessions to help address a state budget shortfall.

“It was good not having to give something up. Even in the last contract, we had to give up days off, which meant that state employees went to the office and had to work without pay” , Soto said.

Taxpayers paying for the deal are divided.

Opponents say this package does not reflect Connecticut’s economic reality. Kevin Maloney opposes the deal.

“I’m very concerned about our ability to afford this in the future,” Maloney said.

Wilton’s Kim Healy said lawmakers should vote no.

“He’s tone deaf and even seems to ordinary people like me pandering to special interests in an election year,” Healy said.

The Yankee Institute for Public Policy says the costly pandemic indemnity is not part of that contract. The state’s unfunded pension debt stands at $22.4 billion and negotiators are expected to return to the table.

The Lamont administration is betting that the bonuses will prevent thousands of workers from retiring, averting a silver tsunami of retirements.

Lamont told reporters, “They worked really hard. Its been a pretty good year for the state of Connecticut. 3rd consecutive year that we have a surplus. I come out of the private sector. When you do a good job, you get a bonus.

Generous future benefits for retirees disappear this summer under rules negotiated by former Governor Dan Malloy.

It will be the first time that lawmakers will be required to vote on a union agreement. A law was passed requiring them to weigh the risk against the rewards.

In the past, contracts could enter into force even without a vote.

Richard L. Militello