Senators approve state employee labor deal - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Senators approve state employee labor deal

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The state Senate approved a union concession deal expected to save billions on Monday evening (WFSB) The state Senate approved a union concession deal expected to save billions on Monday evening (WFSB)

The Connecticut Senate approved a state employee labor concessions package that is needed to help save $1.5 billion over two years.

Monday's vote comes a week after the House of Representatives approved the deal 78-72.

Republicans and some Democrats have expressed concerns about whether the labor agreement reached between Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and union leaders saves enough money.

The vote passed on Monday evening. It was 18 Democrats versus 18 Republicans, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman broke the tie, saying she thinks this was a step in the right direction.

It’s expected to save the state $1.5 billion over two years covering about a third of the states estimated $5 billion budget deficit over those two years.

“I’m very pleased that we achieved democratic unity on this proposal today and it now set us up for the remainder of what will be very difficult budget negotiations to address. The remaining three and a half billion for our biennial,” said Senate President Martin Looney.

The deal includes a four-year no lay-off clause, and locks in pension and health benefits for 10 years for over 44,000 state workers.

Republican leaders said the savings aren’t enough and the deal strips away collective bargaining rights until 2027. But they said they aren’t going to pre-judge any budget plans to come.

“I just think that this could turn out to be a devastating day for the state of Connecticut in terms of how we get our fiscal structure in order,” said Republican State Senator Len Fasano.

State unions approved the deal and were pushing lawmakers to vote for what Democrats are proposing. They were against the GOP plan, going as far as calling it illegal, saying it strips away collective bargaining rights.

Democrats say the current agreement has significant savings.

"It doesn't tie our hands. The state employees over the past 10 years have 10 times returned to the table to negotiate changes,” said Democratic State Senator Cathy Osten. "They can and they willingly do so all the time."

The vote passed on Monday evening. It was 18 Democrats versus 18 Republicans, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman broke the tie, saying she thinks this was a step in the right direction.

Gov. Dannel Malloy released a statement that said “Today the state legislature ratified the largest state employee concession package in our state’s history – a deal that will save state taxpayers $1.57 billion over the next two years and approximately $24 billion in long-term savings.  Make no mistake about it – these are significant savings, and I want to thank our state workers for stepping up to the table and negotiating in good faith to produce significant, structural changes that will be the foundation of a responsible, balanced budget.  I also want to recognize the legislators who analyzed the savings this deal will produce and recognized the significant structural reforms being made and the reality that we need to find solutions that put our state on firm fiscal ground as soon as possible.  In addition, I want to recognize the hard work and dedication of Secretary Ben Barnes, Undersecretary for Labor Relations Lisa Egan, and the other members of the state’s Office of Labor Relations for working with SEBAC leadership to negotiate this historic deal. The $1.57 billion in savings during the current biennium that this concession package will produce are a key piece toward adopting a budget for our state.  I am urging legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to work with our administration on finding a solution on this as soon as possible so that the most vulnerable populations do not suffer long-term consequences.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said "The Connecticut state employee concessions package will help us get control of pension costs and build a more sustainable budget now and well into the future. I thank them for coming to the table and for their ongoing partnership.”

Union leaders commended the vote.

State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, saying "The passage of the SEBAC agreement secures $1.5 billion in savings in the biennium and $24 billion over the next two decades while protecting vital public services, that all Connecticut residents depend on. We urge the Senate to build on today’s momentum to develop a budget that serves the interest of all of Connecticut’s residents. Today’s vote is a clear rejection of the right-wing, out of state money that sought to influence the direction of our state.  Their campaign was based on false claims and misinformation and did not win in Connecticut today. There is no doubt that these special interest groups will continue their efforts in the upcoming budget debates but hopefully like today the voices of middle-class families will prevail. In Connecticut, the very wealthy pay a lower percentage of their income in state and local taxes than working and middle-class families do. This is a level of unfair and we hope the General Assembly passes a fair and moral budget for all Connecticut residents.”

“Today, Democrats in the Senate voted for significant contractual concessions and systemic reforms to our state employee labor agreements,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “The SEBAC agreement is the most critical single piece of the budget equation, and today Democrats in the Senate wiped out 30% - more than $1.5 billion - of the projected biennial deficit."

“This agreement is the latest step toward making government more affordable and more efficient for taxpayers,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “Outside independent analysts confirm that the new SEBAC agreement makes important long-term changes to our state employee pension and benefit programs resulting in significant savings for taxpayers—roughly $24 billion over the next 20 years.” 

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.