HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a multi-year labor agreement recently ratified by 46,000 unionized Connecticut state employees.

The four-year deal, which is retroactive to July 1, 2021, builds upon an agreement the state had reached in 2017 with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC).

State Sen. Martin Looney, the Democratic Senate President, said it is a good deal.

“They have a lot of institutional memory and knowledge, and were they to choose to walk out, many of our departments would be at a severe disadvantage.”

What is in the 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 program

The Lamont administration is banking that bonuses handed out before July will keep workers from retiring.
Opponents say that come July, the “silver tsunami” will hit, and workers will take the money and run.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, the Republican Senate Minority Leader, and a former state worker said while he respects state workers and all they do, the cost is too high.

“It’s about a 33% increase for state employee individuals on the average amount, that’s about $40,000 over four years. Not many families in Connecticut have that,” Kelly said.

The state has billions in reserves to cover the price tag.

Looney, who supports the agreement, said avoiding arbitration will save the state money in the long run.

“I think that were this to go to an arbitrator, we would wind up paying more because we’re seeing now in many states, including states with Republican governors and Republican legislatures, that actually a greater percentage of raises are being given in some cases,” Looney said.

But opponents say long term the obligation is unsustainable and private sector workers have not enjoyed the same raises or bonuses.

“I want to be fair to labor, but we also have to be fair to the people at home who are struggling, and just because the state budget is flush doesn’t mean everyone’s budget is flush and they’re the ones that are actually paying the tab,” Kelly said.

The agreement was already ratified by state workers. It will not have to be signed by the governor.

It is a resolution for approval by lawmakers. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly 96 to 52 to accept the deal. One Republican broke ranks, State Rep. Tom Delnicki, who represents a district with a lot of state workers.

A rule instituted five years ago not only forces lawmakers to vote on these kinds of labor agreements, but it limits the debate to six hours.