Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget vision for the next two years is aimed at severely cutting back on overall spending, while transforming existing union deals, and the way the state funds city and town schools.
"My budget reflects this partnership - a reenvisioning of education to meet 21st century challenges," Malloy said during a joint session of the Connecticut House and Senate.
He proposed transferring $407 million of teacher pension obligations from the state to cities and towns. He says it's past due that cities and towns take on the responsibility for teacher pensions, since municipalities negotiate the benefits, while the state covers the entire tab.
“After all, teachers are municipal employees," Gov. Malloy said. "The state doesn’t pay the pensions of policemen, or firemen, or anyone else."
Republicans met that proposal with quick criticism, and said if cities and towns choose to raise taxes to cover such a bill, the political fallout would land in the governor's lap.
“The governor has guaranteed that property taxes will go up," said Rep. Themis Klarides, the Republican Leader in the Connecticut House.
In addition, the governor wants to allocate less education funds to wealthier towns, and send that cash to poorer cities and towns, saying such a plan would meet a constitutional and equitable standard.
"From where I sit, I agree with that," said Sen. Martin Looney, the top member of the Connecticut Senate.
The budget proposal, designed for the next two fiscal years, allots for more than $18 billion in overall spending each year, but it also depends on steep concessions from labor unions.
The governor banks on more than $700 million in annual concessions from the state's bargaining coalition of organized labor. If not, the governor said the state would have to layoff 4,200 workers over the next two years. Such layoffs would equal about ten percent of the entire state employee workforce.
Rep. Joe Aresimowicz in hist first term as Speaker of the House, said such layoffs would be unacceptable in any other setting.
"If they were a private company and were saying, ‘hey, we’re going to lay off 4,200 workers,’ we’d all be bending over backwards to come up with something for those workers.”
On the proposed concessions, Lori Pelletier with the AFL-CIO, said the state has to look in new directions for revenue. "They need to look at wealthier individuals and corporations, and all tax expenditures."
The budget proposal from Malloy, is just that, a proposal. Aresimowicz said taxpayers need to remember the budget always looks different months after the governor provides the first draft.
Aresimowicz said, “I’m a football coach. It’s the first quarter. We’ve all agreed what the game looks like and over the next few weeks we’ll start negotiating it out and see what we can come up with.”