To no one’s surprise, state employee unions are responding negatively to proposed cuts in the state budget, including a chunk to be taken out of pension funds.
The coalition representing state unions notified Rell late Wednesday it would meet to discuss her request for a $14.5 million concession involving a state retiree health care savings account.
But West Hartford lawyer Daniel Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, also made it clear that labor believes Rell has struck the wrong tone with her pledge to eliminate the deficit with massive cuts.
“Wholesale cutting of public spending at this time, when consumer and corporate spending is falling, would not only deny the public the services it needs, but lead to a downward spiral devastating both Connecticut’s economy and the state budget,” Livingston said. (Phaneuf)
Rell has said that raising taxes is out of the question. The unions seem to be hoping that the Obama administration will craft some sort of aid package for states. Where the money for that is going to come from I can’t imagine–especially seeing as a maker of mediocre, unpopular cars seems to be first in line for government handouts at the moment.
The heart of the matter is the $14.5 million from the savings account for retiree health care. The money can’t be removed without union and legislative approval. Right now, it looks like the unions may not let this happen. However, it’s worth pointing out that benefits themselves can’t be removed, only the money from the savings account–which may make things tougher in the future. The unions also don’t like the tone Rell has struck–namely, that massive cuts are the only way out.
Democrats in the legislature, on the other hand, seem to be on board with spending cuts, at least so far. Here’s what Senate president Donald Williams had to say today:
Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr. says great progress is being made in negotiations between legislative leaders and Governor Rell’s office on a plan to greatly reduce the current fiscal year’s budget deficit. Senator Williams says that while some details of the budget reduction plan are still being ironed-out, all sides are working together in a bi-partisan manner.
Unlike the federal government, the state government can’t deficit-spend. So the choice here is very stark–we either raise taxes or cut services. Rell wants to cut services. Which services will see cuts has yet to be determined, of course, but Monday’s special session will give us a better idea of where the state is heading over the next few years.
Phaneuf, Keith. “Unions say they don’t like Gov. Rell’s tone.” Journal-Inquirer 20 November, 2008.