Thousands of State Jobs May Be Cut, Connecticut Gov. Says

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By Martha W. Kessler

April 8 — As many as 2,000 state workers in Connecticut could be laid off in the coming weeks, and that number may go as high as 4,000, as the state struggles to address a burgeoning deficit currently projected to exceed $900 million.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) has said the level of job cuts could have a significant impact on the state's ability to provide services.

Malloy declined in a conversation with reporters April 8 to specify exactly how many state jobs will be eliminated. He said the administration is trying to determine what steps need to be taken to address the potential deficit for fiscal year 2017.

Two legislative panels moved measures forward April 7 that are intended to address the projected fiscal shortfall, but the bills don't cover the entire gap, currently set at $933 million.

As a result, Malloy said, he plans to take the extraordinary step of releasing a revised budget proposal the week of April 11 that contains additional actions to achieve the required balanced budget, including specific layoff numbers.

Layoffs Discussed for Months

The specter of state employee layoffs has been hovering since Malloy unveiled his initial budget plan in February, calling for a reduction to state services and the staff who provide them.

Malloy said April 8 that the state has accrued 288 unfilled vacancies and been notified of 360 planned retirements in the executive branch. However, he said, there will need to be significantly more than 1,000 layoffs, and perhaps as many as 2,000, in order to bring the state budget into balance. Given the failure of the legislative panels to cut enough from the FY 2017 budget, that figure may go as high as 4,000 positions, he said.

The legislature is required to enact a budget before it adjourns May 4. Those layoffs must be in place by early June in order to avoid affecting the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Union Isn't Bargaining Over Layoffs

The state's 45,000 employees are represented by 16 unions that are members of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which bargains on behalf of the workers. SEBAC has declined to negotiate with the governor over the layoffs.

“There are fairer and better alternatives to close the fiscal gap by ensuring that the wealthiest taxpayers in the nation's wealthiest state pay their fair share,” said Travis Woodward, president of the P-4 Council in the Connecticut State Employees Association, which is Local 2001 of the Service Employees International Union.

“The state could also spend less by doing without some of the high-priced outside consultants they use. All it takes is some political courage and an unwillingness to scapegoat workers targeted for layoffs,” Woodward, an inspector in the state's transportation department, said in a statement March 31. The P-4 Council is a bargaining unit of approximately 2,400 engineering, scientific and technical professionals in several executive branch agencies.

Union officials reported in an internal communication following an April 6 meeting with administration officials, which was obtained by Bloomberg BNA, that no progress was made in discussing alternatives to layoffs as methods to close current and future budget gaps.

The union leaders said administration officials didn't back away from previous public demands for state employee concessions to help cover the budget shortfall. They also said the administration “did nothing to give the impression that they have re-assessed their previous threats to eliminate the jobs of state employees.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martha Kessler in Boston at mkessler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com