An overwhelming majority of state union employees voted in favor of concessions that will save Connecticut billions of dollars over the next few years.
Ballots for state employee union members across Connecticut were submitted by the close of business Monday with their decisions on whether to approve retirement and health coverage concessions and tens of thousands of state employees approved giving more to their retirements and paying more for health insurance to help solve the state’s budget crisis.
The $1.5 billion deal was negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration and has been described as a sort of “lynch pin,” of budget talks since the state is dealing with a $5 billion projected shortfall over the next two years.
The Malloy administration had an actuarial analysis done on the deal, and it came back showing it could save taxpayers more than $24 billion over the next 20 years and remove $1.5 billion from the projected $5 billion shortfall the state faces over the next two years.
The base of the proposal includes creating a new tier of retirement benefits for future state government hires, higher health care costs for employees, and controversial provisions that would prohibit layoffs for four years and extend the existing union contract by five years, to 2027.
The new retirement tier alone, the governor said, is a win for the state, because of the future savings for fixed costs.
“State unions held up their end of the bargain – negotiating in good faith, leading their members through some tough changes, and ultimately rallying their members. Now, it’s up to the legislature to do their part and approve this agreement. We will continue to be available to meet with any legislator who may have questions about the value and significance of this agreement,” Malloy said in a statement.
Republicans have said with such a large budget hole, more concessions are needed. House and Senate GOP budget proposals have included statutory changes that would reduce retirement and health benefits. Their own projections show savings closer to $2 billion, meaning fewer cuts would be needed to balance the budget.
Republicans say they can get a better deal by changing the law, which the governor and the unions said would be illegal or could be tied up in court for years.
Now that the unions have approved the deal, it will go to the General Assembly for approval, and it will go into effect automatically if there is no action within 30 days of the new General Assembly session that starts Feb. 1.