HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A big vote is on deck this week. Lawmakers are expected to vote on a four-year contract covering more than 46,000 state workers.
Governor Ned Lamont said he is trying to retain workers. But a conservative think tank says Connecticut cannot afford the price tag and many taxpayers agree.
“We have to put food on our tables. We have to put fuel in our cars,” said Anthony Soto, a wage investigator from the Department of Labor.
What is in the $1.8 billion deal? The independent Office of Fiscal Analysis crunched the numbers.
- $3,500 bonus for full time employees
- 10% in raises over four years
- 2% step increase yearly
- Voluntary prescription drug savings
State workers say a 2017 contract included $24 billion in concessions to help close a state budget gap.
“It was nice to not have to give something up. Even in the last contract, we had to give up furlough days which means state workers were going into the office having to work without pay,” Soto said.
Taxpayers who pay for the deal are split.
Opponents say this package does not reflect Connecticut’s economic reality. Kevin Maloney opposes the deal.
“I’m very concerned with our ability to pay this going forward,” Maloney said.
Kim Healy from Wilton said lawmakers should vote no.
“It is tone-deaf and appears to even regular folks like me to be pandering to special interests in an election year,” Healy said.
The Yankee Institute for Public Policy says costly pandemic pay is not part of this contract. The state’s unfunded pension debt is $22.4 billion and negotiators should go back to the table.
The Lamont administration is banking that bonuses will keep thousands of workers from retiring, avoiding a silver tsunami of retirements.
Lamont told reporters: “They’ve worked really hard. Its been a pretty good year for the state of Connecticut. 3rd year in a row that we’ve had a surplus. I come out of the private sector. When you do good work, you get a bonus.”
Generous future retiree benefits go away this summer under rules negotiated by former Governor Dan Malloy.
This will be the first time lawmakers are required to vote on a union deal. A law was passed forcing them to weigh the risk versus rewards.
In the past, the contracts could go into effect even without a vote.