At a time when the state's unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, Connecticut Governor. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday proposed nearly 5,500 layoffs and the elimination of another 1,000 unfilled position.
The budget-cutting proposal is part of an overall plan to close a projected deficit of about $700 million in the new fiscal year that was created when the state employee unions rejected a consession and savings plan that union leaders had reached with Malloy.
The state legislature is scheduled to meet Thursday in special session to vote on Malloy's plans before the new fiscal year starts on Friday.
Besides layoffs and program cuts, the plan includes reducing aid to the state's 169 cities and towns by a combined $54 million per year for two years. That translates into a cut of 2.4 percent in the state's formula grants to cities and towns.
The largest hit, in raw numbers, went to the Department of Correction with a reduction of more than 1,000 positions. The prison guards voted sharply against Malloy's savings-and-concessions plans, but both Malloy and his advisers said flatly that the layoffs would not be targeted at the agencies that rejected the deal.
Administration officials were asked multiple times whether the unions that shot down the deal, which turned out to be four, would receive the most layoffs. Each time, they said "no.''
While the prisons have the most reductions in raw numbers, that is because corrections is the largest agency with nearly 6,500 employees. As a percentage, multiple agencies have higher reductions than prisons, which are at 15.7 percent.
The reductions include 1,019 jobs at corrections, 817 at the transportation department, 540 at the department of developmental services, 486 at the mental health department, 450 in the courthouses in the judicial branch, 359 at the Department of Children and Families, 333 at the University of Connecticut, 239 at the social services department, 165 at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, and 136 at the new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
More than 25 agencies across state government have a higher percentage of reductions than corrections, including the Secretary of the State, state treasurer, governor's budget office, lieutenant governor's office, Office of Governmental Accountability, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, agriculture department, consumer protection, and transportation departments, chief medical examiner's office, and Department of Administrative Services.
The Courant's Jon Lender reports:
The vast majority of those positions in the prisons are already vacant, so "the actual impact will be minimal," said Moises Padilla, vice president of union Local 387, representing workers at the Cheshire correctional complex. He estimated that 150 to 200 current workers could be laid off, but added that retirements between now and Sept. 1, when layoffs for senior employees would take effect, could bring down the number much farther, or even down to zero.
Padilla commented on figures that were read to him over the phone, and said he hadn't seen any actual numbers. The presidents of the three union locals representing prison guards and other correction workers will meet Wednesday with the state correction Commissioner Leo Arnone to be briefed on details of the layoffs, Padilla told Capitol Watch.
Correction union members voted strongly to reject the concession deal that union negotiatiors had reached with Malloy. The governor has said in answer to reporters' questions that he would not look to layoff groups of employees who rejected the concessions deal, and Padilla said he saw no such intent in Malloy's layoff plan for the correction department. "No, I really don't believe that that's the case," he said. "I really don't see any backlash in relation to the vote."
He said positions have gone unfilled in recent years when correction workers have left the department or retired. The inmate population has dropped and prison facilities have closed or are planned for closing.
The governor's office Tuesday night said it did not have a list of unfilled positions for each state department.
The administration told reporters in a statement that "these are the recommendations that were sent to the legislature, and if enacted, it will be left to each commissioner to determine how to achieve the savings outlined. They will have to reduce their agency budgets by the dollar amounts you see, and OPM thinks the number of suggested layoffs will help them get there. Some commissioners might choose to lay off more people to get to that number, some might choose to lay off a lower number -- and find additional savings elsewhere.''
Overall, 6,466 positions would be eliminated, including 5,466 layoffs. The 5,466 layoffs are lower than Malloy's projected total of 7,500 layoffs, but higher than his original number of 4,700.
The total projected savings are $704 million in the first year and $905 million in the second year of the two-year budget.
As the state budget crisis has continued, Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield noted that Moody's Investor Service revised its outlook on the state's general obligation bond rating to negative from stable.
"Governor Malloy and state legislators had the opportunity during this past legislative session to make true fiscal reforms that would have shown the credit rating agencies that we intend to address our fiscal crisis and long-term liabilities in a responsible manner. We missed that opportunity,''
McKinney said in a statement. "Hopefully this news will serve as a wake-up call for Thursday's special session and our actions moving forward."
State Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy said the proposed layoff numbers were "daunting" and likely would affect the staff at the state's 17 technical high schools, which serve 10,000 students.
Malloy's plan would cut 201 staff positions to help reach a $27.8 million cut in the department's budget for next year and $31.2 million the year after.
"We have yet to determine how that will impact those programs and services, but we're of course hopeful that there will be some alternative to those proposed layoffs because they appear to be devastating," said Murphy, who will be retiring from his long-running position as the chief education spokesman.