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Connecticut House of Representatives backs agreement with unions to save $1.5B

Connecticut House of Representatives backs agreement with unions to save $1.5B

HARTFORD — By a party-line vote Monday, the House adopted a concession agreement with state employee unions projected to save more than $1.5 billion over two years.

The vote came despite protests from Republicans, who said they needed more time to review the bill and pointed to Senate Democrats’ decision to wait until July 31 to vote on the agreement.

House Democrats made good on their stated intention last week to vote on the agreement, which the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition ratified a week ago. The 78-72 vote — Rep. John Hampton, D-Simsbury, was the only Democrat to break rank — drew applause from Malloy.

“When we asked labor to come to the table and be part of the solution, our state workers answered the call,” he said in a statement. “And I remind lawmakers that as each day goes by with this plan unapproved, certain savings that this agreement will create will dissipate.”

The agreement includes a number of changes to state employee benefits, including increased contributions for pensions and health care costs from current and retired employees. It also creates a fourth tier in the pension system for new hires that includes a combined defined-benefit, defined-contribution plan.

It also includes wage freezes for state employees. All but one of the 34 unions were negotiating new wage packages.

In exchange, the agreement would result in a no-layoff agreement for four years and extend the benefit package for five years, until 2027. Republicans said the state can achieve a similar level of savings statutorily, and they said the agreement isn’t worth what the state is giving back to unions.

“This is tying the hands of every taxpayer in the state of Connecticut, because we cannot do a darn thing about” the benefits package going forward, said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby.

All Republicans voted against the deal with the exception of Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, who was not present.

Democrats said the proposed changes in the House Republican budget would fail to reach the $1.5 billion in savings over two years that Malloy got in the SEBAC agreement, a key figure as lawmakers continue talks on how to plug a projected $5 billion deficit over that same time period.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, also said some of the proposed changes to the existing contract wouldn’t be legal, and would be out of line with Connecticut’s policies.

“It doesn’t add up,” Ritter said of Republican complaints, “because we have people in this state who have a longstanding commitment and principle of collective bargaining.”

Earlier in the day, Klarides and Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, urged Aresimowicz to hold off on voting, noting Senate Democrats were already planning to do so.

They said they needed more time to evaluate the wage and salary portion of the agreement, pointing out that the Office of Fiscal Analysis didn’t include a financial impact in its own projections.

OFA merely said there “is no fiscal impact attributed to a wage freeze as there are no collective bargaining contracts in place.” OFA noted that only state police have an agreement on wages, and it expires at the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans, though, said it’s an indication OFA needed more time, as they only got the information late last Thursday.

“They could not do the detailed analysis required that we usually see in OFA notes with respect to contracts,” Klarides said.
Twitter: @reporter_savino


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