Report by Paula Antolini
June 1, 2017 2:11PM EDT
Deal or No Deal: Senator Boucher Says Legislature Cannot Gamble with Connecticut’s Future
May 31, 2017 – Hartford – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) today joined her Senate Republican colleagues in announcing a revised, no tax state budget that takes a new approach to achieving state employee labor savings.
“For years, Republicans have warned that spending cuts and budget changes are necessary to restore our economy,” Sen. Boucher said. “We lost GE to Boston. There’s word Aetna may defect to New York City. Every day I hear from people and businesses that say they are leaving our state because of the high taxes and out-of-control state spending. Connecticut’s house is burning and we are out of time.”
The Republican plan identifies two alternative labor savings plans instead of relying on the proposed deal the administration negotiated with the state employee unions that would save $2.5 billion over two years. The administration’s deal would lock the state into specified benefits including wage increases ranging from 9% – 11% over five years, and only achieves $186 million of its savings from concessions that actually require state employee union approval.
The Republican proposal seeks to reach an additional $657.4 million in labor concessions by negotiating a new deal with state employee unions, or achieve $2.1 billion in savings through legislative action alone if the unions decline to negotiate. Sen. Boucher said this is necessary to achieve the long term, structural changes to employee pensions and benefits that will avoid state employee layoffs and stabilize state budgets.
“We recognize that state employees are the people who provide the core services the people of our state rely on, but it’s time to bring public employee benefits more in line with the benefits available to workers in the private sector,” Sen. Boucher said. “The situation with the unions is ‘deal, or no deal.’ The legislature has the ability to make changes outside of the collective bargaining agreement. We would rather have the cooperation of our state workers, but will take the actions that are in the state’s best interest. Legislators can no longer gamble with Connecticut’s future.”
Either of the two labor savings options proposed by Senate Republicans could be used to balance the “Confident Connecticut” Republican alternative budget proposal. Confident Connecticut Budget includes:
- No new taxes
- Increases Education Cost Sharing funding by $170 million in the first two years and implements a new funding formula
- Protects all towns and cities from cuts to statutory municipal grants in year one, either holding municipalities harmless or increasing funds
- Maintains tax exempt status for hospitals to protect them from a new local hospital tax
- Preserves core government services by restoring funding for social services and programs that benefit people most in need
- Prioritizes transportation needs and stabilizes funding without tolls
- Lowers taxes for retirees and helps seniors age in place
- Enhances funding for state parks and tourism
- Streamlines government
- Provides for structural changes
Full details on the complete Senate Republican “Confident Connecticut” fiscal years 2018/2019 budget proposal available here.
Sen. Boucher said that after an unprecedented three bond rating downgrades this spring, the state is running out of time to change course.
“The residents desperately need a plan to put out the financial fire that threatens to consume our state,” Sen. Boucher said. “If we don’t pursue these types of structural changes then it’s no deal.”
Sen. Boucher is Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee and represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.