State union workers agreed to make concessions as part of a deal that should help stem the tide against the state's budget woes.
The State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition announced the official voting results on Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposal Tuesday morning at the Connecticut State Employees Association in Hartford.
State Republicans asked for a vote on the agreement later this month when lawmakers are set to return to the State Capitol. They posed the question of whether or not the agreement is in the best interest of the state.
Union representatives said thousands of workers from 15 different unions overwhelmingly approved the deal that will save $24 billion over 20 years.
"Once again this governor has asked for us to step up and we came to the call," Darnell Ford, a union representative, said. "Face with a budget deficit, we were asked to help and after months of negotiations we have come up with every penny sought."
They said their workers definitely did their part. They then called upon the state's big corporations and companies to do theirs.
"If you care about Connecticut working for every Connecticut resident, not just the wealthy and the powerful, then you must ask for the same from the billionaires and corporations that you ask from us," Ford said
Ford said middle-class workers can't be the only ones making sacrifices.
“When we asked labor to come to the table and be part of the solution, our state workers answered the call," Malloy said in a statement. "This agreement contains significant short-term savings that will be the foundation of a responsible, balanced budget. More importantly, the agreement delivers over $20 billion in savings to taxpayers over the long term and ensures that the promises we make to our employees today are promises that we can afford to keep. They agreed to historic concessions that will put the state on a sustainable path."
The SEBAC deal immediately saves the state $1.5 billion over the next two years, which may be enough to help save a state that is estimated to have a $5 billion deficit over the next two years. This will affect 42,000 state employees.
The deal includes a three-year wage freeze and three furlough days as well as higher insurance co-pays and higher premiums. There will be an increase pension contributions.
"There is some extra clarity today and that is a package that will save 24 billion over 20 years was approved by labor and I thank them for that," Malloy said."Now, the legislature has to do their job."
Since June 30, the state has been operating on an executive order after state lawmakers and Malloy failed to pass a budget. A short term budget could prevent drastic cuts to some of the neediest people.
Republicans pushed for more concessions because of the shortfall, but Malloy said that would have been too much for unions to accept. Republicans in both the house and senate said more importantly the deal ties their hands from making any changes for a ten years.
"They know that's the best deal in the United States of America and I don't blame them for voting for it," Minority Leader Themis Klarides said. "I understand from that perspective. But, I will say again, there is an alternative way to do this where state employees are still protected. they are more in line with the private sector and Connecticut can move forward."
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