Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, ignited an angry exchange with the governor’s office Tuesday by saying Gov. Ned Lamont’s “hands-off and silent approach” to legislating led to Democratic legislators watering down a public-private partnership bill to placate unions.
The administration fired back 90 minutes later by noting Fasano also had a contentious relationship with former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, comparing the Senate GOP leader to a “tiresome and predictable” heckler from the bleachers.
The comments come within a few days of other Fasano-Lamont clashes over tolls and raises for two state employee bargaining units.
The legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee “neutered” a Lamont proposal Monday to allow more public-private partnerships, Fasano wrote in a statement Tuesday. He said their revisions offered “clear evidence that Governor Lamont’s hands-off and silent approach has allowed state employee unions to continue leading the charge and directing policy in our state.”
The head of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, Salvatore Luciano, strongly criticized Lamont in March 25 testimony before the GAE committee, arguing an administration proposal would roll back vital anti-corruption safeguards built into the state’s contract award system in 2007.
Lamont wants to privatize more state services in an effort to streamline spending and improve efficiency. He would remove limits on the number of major public-private partnerships that can be authorized — the current limit is five— and the 50-year cap on the duration of such partnerships.
He would also expand the types of services partnerships could provide.
Committee members rewrote the bill, adopting a measure that instead only raised the limit on public-private partnerships from five to seven.
Fasano said the governor’s proposal “would have given life to public private partnerships and was the cornerstone of his economic development strategy” but now has been “torpedoed” and “neutered” with “worthless” substitute language.
Lamont spokesman Rob Blanchard countered quickly Tuesday.
“It seems that Senator Fasano hasn’t been able to find a governor he gets along with,” Blanchard wrote in a statement, adding that the Senate leader “has been around here long enough to know this is not final language and the governor remains committed to ensuring that public-private partnerships remain a key component of his larger economic vision.”
Blanchard repeated the governor’s oft-extended invitation to all legislators and constituencies to help craft better proposals, but added that “Senator Fasano’s legislation via press release from the bleachers is becoming tiresome and predictable.”
Lamont and Fasano butted heads last Thursday when Fasano held a press conference to promote the GOP alternative to financing transportation improvements, “Prioritize Progress.”
Republicans want to redirect other bonding — currently used for school construction, capital programs at state universities and economic development — for transportation.
While administration officials suggested a compromise might be reached, Fasano said it would be difficult as long as the “toll monster” is any part of the plan.
And one day before that, the Democrat-controlled legislature voted to approve an arbitration award that grants 5.5 percent raises, both this year and next, to two new bargaining units representing roughly 200 assistant attorneys general.
The assistant AGs had not received raises in 10 of the previous 11 years. But with analysts warning state finances — unless adjusted — could run billions of dollars in deficit over the next two years, Republicans argued the raises simply are unaffordable.
The administration said that while it respectfully disagreed with the arbitrator’s conclusions, “there is no guarantee another round of arbitration would produce a better result for the state” and that the decision ultimately rested with the legislature.
But Fasano said Lamont, who enjoyed strong labor support on the campaign trail last fall, was too quiet about the raises. “He should have sent a message, and he didn’t.”
Fasano added Tuesday, “I hope when it comes to labor contracts and policies that add to Connecticut’s fixed costs the governor will find his voice.”
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