Report by Paula Antolini
July 31, 2017 9:31PM EDT
Senator Boucher: A Sad Day for Connecticut Taxpayers
July 31, 2017
State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) today called the legislature’s vote approving the union concession package a sad day for the state of Connecticut.
“By voting into law the package negotiated by the Governor’s office, the General Assembly has taken an action that will reverberate in Connecticut for decades,” Sen. Boucher said. “State Senators that controlled the vote had a chance to reject this package and expand the options available to balance the state budget. Instead, we now are locked into a ten-year contract that guarantees wage increases, pension benefits, and continued employment for unionized workers no matter what financial situation the state faces in the future. This party line vote locks in increased benefit costs despite the fact that year after year budget deficits not were solved by historic tax increases. This vote virtually guarantees that these problems will continue.”
Sen. Boucher said the package negotiated by the Governor and his staff produces some positive changes and includes a two-year wage freeze, but does not even get close to the numbers needed to put Connecticut on the path to financial stability. Connecticut is facing a $5.1 billion budget deficit while this union package seeks to save $1.5 billion.
“Any concessions made during the first two years of this contract are erased in the following eight years of an unheard of ten-year pension protection program,” she said. “This contract includes a four-year, no-layoff provision and language that does not allow for the consolidation of state departments or services, or take advantage of farming services out to the private sector and nonprofits as a way to save money. This will tie the hands of the state of Connecticut and make it near impossible to address the future recessions that always occur about every ten years, unless we approve more tax increases and reductions in services to those that most need it in our state.”
Sen. Boucher said the best interest of the majority of state residents should not be sacrificed for the benefit of one state special interest group.
“The benefits awarded to state employees through this agreement are far more generous than those received by local municipal workers and teachers. Even Connecticut’s U.S. Senators and U.S. Congressmen choose to keep their Connecticut healthcare benefits and forego federal benefits because Connecticut’s are so much better than those they would receive from Washington,” she said. “To guarantee this for ten years is unheard of and does a disservice to the rest of our state.”
Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.
Below are her remarks on the senate floor in voting no on the SEBAC agreements.
“I can just imagine the news headline after today’s vote in the senate on the heels of “What is the Matter with Connecticut?” ( WSJ) and “How did Rich Connecticut Morph into one of America’s Worst Preforming Economies?”( Forbes). They could be writing “Sad Day for Connecticut’s Taxpayer” or “Special Interest Rules the General Assembly.”
By voting for the package negotiated by the governor’s office, the democratically controlled General Assembly has taken an action that will reverberate for decades. The anticipation leading up to the vote built throughout the day on Monday as Democratic leaders sought to convince their own reluctant members to vote in favor of the contracts. They finally did, as they voted lock step with the party that has controlled the legislature for 38 years. Some blame others that occupied the Governor’s office 20 years ago for today’s fiscal problems. But, it should be noted that no Governor is able to make the final decision. Taxes, spending, budgets, and contract agreements must be voted on by the state House and Senate and the fall out on jobs, housing, and population losses all rest on today’s vote.
These various 33 state union agreements contain some cost savings through a two-year wage freeze, but also contain many more cost increases and greater benefits. Unfortunately, these contacts (state personnel/pension costs represent 40 percent of overall state budget) are a long way from and much more generous than what our local bargaining units receive and lock up the state for ten years. This ten-year guarantee is unheard of in municipal and teachers’ contracts whose workers contribute nearly seven percent to their pensions, personally spend up to $4,000 in medical bills before their healthcare plan kicks in. Even Connecticut’s U.S. Senators and U.S. Congressmen choose to keep their Connecticut healthcare benefits and forego their federal benefits, as they are so much better than those they would receive from Washington. In addition, most municipalities have also converted to 401K pension plans while the agreements voted on today allow state employees to keep their expensive defined pension plans for the next ten years! Most people, when they learn this react with “Are you kidding me?
Again, this vote is to keep unaffordable state costs in place and protected for ten years at the expense of overburdened, overtaxed Connecticut residents (many who have lost their jobs), towns and schools that will most certainly be faced with higher property and individual taxes.
The state is facing a $5.1 billion deficit that follows an unending steam of deficits since the 2008 recession after two of the largest tax increases in history. These massive tax increases have yet to result in balancing any budgets since arriving to the senate. One party has ruled our senate until this January. We are now tied 18-18 with the Lt. Governor breaking the tie for the Governor. This is sure to happen again today. The union contact vote before us was negotiated by the Governor and while some positive changes are agreed, it still leaves a $4 billion budget gap and does not get anywhere close to the number needed. Further, the two-year wage freeze is erased in the following eight years of increased wage and benefits enhancements that swell with the costly payout of defined pensions. These contracts also include language that does not allow state jobs to be provided by the private sector or nonprofits. Worst yet, the ten-year term of the contacts ties the hands of the state and makes it near impossible for it to confront the next recession, which is sure to occur without more massive taxes and service cuts to those that most need them in our state.
It is a sad day for my constituents and residents of Connecticut where one special interest group benefits at the expense of every other interest. People have had enough and many have given up and have left taking their jobs with them. We must stop this and convince them that Hartford has changed its ways. Please vote no and return to the bargaining table to get better terms for the Connecticut taxpayer.”