Leaders of unions representing state government workers are meeting today with negotiators for Gov. Dannel Malloy, beginning talks Malloy hopes will save taxpayers $2 billion over the next two years.
The unions are under no obligation to make concessions to Malloy, though he threatened layoffs of workers if he doesn't get what he wants.
"I have not hidden the fact that, in the absence of success, we'll have to go down a different road," Malloy said after introducing his nominee to the state appellate court, Judge Carmen Espinoza. "We'll be prepared to go down that road if we must."
The unions won a 20-year-long contract from former Gov. John Rowland and the legislature in 1997. That deal was structured to increase the state's pension contributions in the later years of the contract.
Then, former Gov. Jodi Rell and the legislature in 2009 deferred hundreds of millions of dollars in pension contributions.
Last year, Connecticut's pension fund was valued at just 44 percent of the money it has promised to pay.
"We're not going to fail to pay our pensions," said Malloy, who refused to make public how long he'll give these talks with the union leaders.
"I'd prefer that there be agreement on that timeline at the discussions that are taking place," said Malloy. "Part of any timeline will have to be reflective of progress we are making in the adoption of a spending program and a revenue program."
Malloy is to promote his budget framework in New London tonight during a town-hall style meeting, continuing his campaign.
"You get a budget out the door. In essence you run it up the flagpole," said Malloy. "My sense. is more people are saluting than not."
He will be at Jennings Elementary School in New London at 7 p.m.