HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Wednesday started the new budget year for the state, which also includes a 5.5 percent raise for state employees.
State employees say they continue to provide essential services, including state police and prison guards, during the pandemic, and that they've earned these raises.
However, some are saying this is not the year for those increases.
The sticking point for the unions is that the 3.5 percent raise was part of a concession deal struck in 2017 with former governor Dannel Malloy. But, of course, no one could foresee a pandemic and an economic shut down, so Republicans said they feel like now is not the time for these raises.
The 3.5 percent raise will go to roughly 44,000 union state employees. Estimates are that this will cost between $140 million and $150 million, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget office.
Republicans point to historic unemployment records, both in Connecticut and nationwide. Lamont has also said state employees should forgo the raise. They have pointed to historic unemployment and other fiscal concerns.
However, the unions say they've already given back. In fact, this raise is part of a five-year deal that saw state employees take three years of no raises. They also agreed to furloughs and higher costs for their health care plans. So, they feel it's only right for the state to honor this part of the agreement.
Unions also note many state employees are front line workers.
“My fellow state workers are on the front lines of this crisis, providing critical public services and keeping our communities safe and healthy," said Shannon Martin, a Dept. of Children and Families worker with AFSCME Local 2663.
“I feel it's resolved, because this was a concessions contract, this did give billions of dollars to the state of Connecticut,” said AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano.
“People across the state are making sacrifices, and to not hear that, I think, is tone deaf,” said Republican State Senator Kevin Kelly.
The state does have more than $2 billion in its rainy day fund, but some of that will likely go toward balancing the budget that ended Tuesday.
Projections indicate a nearly $450 million deficit once those books are closed.
The current agreement with SEBAC is up in July 2022, and talks are already happening. Luciano said that's the place to address concerns about long-term costs.