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The Far reaching Impact of Governor Malloy’s Layoffs

Northend Agents Newspaper article- July 20, 2011: Vol. 37 No. 9 By Tiffani Jones

It’s no secret that the U.S. has been in the throes of a serious economic crisis. People continue to suffer, despite any reported hikes in employment numbers and President Barack Obama still can’t seem to garner a consensus with congressional leaders regarding how to get a better handle on America’s financial issues; reportedly walking out of a debt ceiling meeting recently. An article in the New York Times detailed how common it has become for New Yorkers and people in other parts of the U.S. to balance several part-time jobs at once (minus the benefits a full-time job would afford them) – just to make ends meet, losing a social life and sleep in the process in order to keep up. Retirement seems to be far off for baby boomers, as they struggle to hang on to their jobs and maintain their livelihoods. Connecticut is definitely feeling the effects of the economy. State workers are tense and waiting like sitting ducks, after Governor Malloy’s vow to move forward with plans to lay off hundreds of state employees after failing to reach a concession deal with AFSCME Local 391, the final group to vote in the Council 4 union. The rejected $1.6 billion concession deal would have reportedly eliminates 45,000 state jobs, making 45,000 people accountable for the breakdown in negotiations between SEBAC and the state. Governor Malloy has seemingly displayed his displeasure by refusing to renegotiate with the unions any further, asking the legislature to grant him permission to make necessary repeals in order to close the $1.6 billion gap in the budget. Last month, Malloy claimed to not want to have to lay off state workers, and acknowledge that while there were “preferable ways to go” they are no longer available. As of now, full-service DMV offices in Danbury, Enfield, New Britain, and Old Saybrook are reportedly expected to close in addition to the Putnam satellite office and photo license centers in Milford, Middletown, and Derby. And a reported 57 state troopers (many of them recent graduates) are expected to be pink slipped. These mass state layoffs will undoubtedly inconvenience state employees, but will also impact surrounding communities on a grand scale. With the proposed DMV closures residents, who live along the shore, will have to make quite the trek when they need to get the DMV, and I needn’t mention how expensive gas prices are. And some people might argue that the DMV is already gravelly understaffed, as it is… the wait-time to do business will increase exponentially; and a lack of state troopers on the highways to deter DUI infractions is never a good thing… Are the “preferable” ways to balance the budget in fact, actually no longer available? Are there other ways around having to layoff state employees? People are frustrated, and the fact that former Governor, Jodi Rell had two terms to clean up the mess she inherited from John Rowland (by vetoing seemingly crucial legislation brought before her), isn’t lost on them. But a hike in taxes and proposed layoffs doesn’t do anything to avoid inciting fed up working-class people to chorus. The general consensus amongst many state workers I had the opportunity to build with recently, seem to think there are other possible alternatives other than what the governor is trying to sell CT residents and have expressed their displeasure with worthwhile and highly needed state employees needlessly paying a price. The Department of Corrections is expected to lose about 222 employees, 191 of them corrections officers. The common argument amongst many of the state workers I spoke with centered on useless departmental expenditures and unnecessary pay salaries for those with seemingly “frivolous” job titles…

One employee for an undisclosed state agency complained. “Every governor brings in his people but many don't grandstand as a justification to remove targeted folks because of fiscal policy reasons when he in turn hires his people… some at higher rates. When the governor was laying off [Jodi] Rell’s people saying it was for fiscal reasons he was hiring his own people...this may all seem petty and to some extent it is, but in the public forum we live and die by our rhetoric!” Department of corrections employees’ concerns about layoffs in their agency seemed to be genuinely valid. The perceived opaque information being presented by Dannel Malloy about their pensions being unsustainable and them not contributing any money to the pension system, did not bode well for fed up state employees who’re uncertain about their future, particularly when one considers the terms of SEBAC, a 20-year benefits deal signed in 1997 by former governor John G. Rowland, which was planned to run through 2017. Many department of corrections employees feel that Governor Malloy engaged in negotiations without attempting to reach a consensus with leaders and members, and is attempting to coerce them into making the $2 billion worth of concessions. They believe this to be an unfair demand, particularly since he hiked up taxes. Most feel that Malloy is far interested in advocating business interests rather than balancing the state’s financial affair and saving state jobs despite him declaring his displeasure with having to do so… that he’s allegedly adamant about having the unions agree to the concessions deal, because it will enable him to implement a medical plan called Sustinet. An accusation which prompted the launch of the online petition LMB (http://www.lmbnow.com), which brings their “less than stellar” experiences with SEBAC to light… as they seemingly feel as if they’ve been shut out of negotiations. The petition stresses that their intent is not to sue the State of Connecticut but to be heard and included in the decision making process. Another dire worry is the closure of the Enfield Correctional Institution (which holds 723 inmates) by the beginning of October, transferring approximately 350 prisoners to Cheshire Correctional Institution, along with the scheduled shutdown of the Bergin Correctional Institution, and Gates Correction Institution in Niantic, Cheshire C.I.’s inmate population is expected to increase… A bleak probability that made the department of corrections employees I spoke with even more uneasy, as mention was made to how this would impact understaffed correctional institutions, inmates housed in too-crowded, dorm-like quarters, and the overall community at large; A couple of department of corrections employees referenced the infamous melee that unfolded and reached a violent crescendo at the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution which resulted in two deaths, as well as the infamous riot that took place two years after at Enfield C.I., during the early 1990’s. Hardened criminals paroled for good behavior; with virtually no rehabilitation, education or discernible job placement skills being released back on the streets to commit violent crimes is the primary reason why d.o.c. employees are disheartened with Governor Malloy’s unwillingness to renegotiate (or at least ponder) the terms of his planned layoffs. “You have counselors being paid overtime to rubber-stamp convicts for good behavior, releasing them back on the street where they’ll terrorize the community.” An employee opined. Just recently Isaiah Boucher (a parolee with at least seven criminal convictions on his record which ranges from 2001-2010 and who was out on “special probation”)- engaged Berlin police in a standoff, at that town’s Best Western motel after stabbing his girlfriend and the public needn’t be reminded to the paroled Cheshire home invaders… Regardless of whether or not people feel governor Malloy is doing the best he can to balance the state’s budget, a couple of things are fundamental… No one likes feeling like a sitting duck when it comes to their livelihood and whenever the governor addresses the public about proposed ways

to balance the state’s budget, his speeches seem riddled with uncertainty and inconsistencies, as do the motives of union leaders. The impact of these layoffs will undoubtedly affect the surrounding communities, the working poor (who stand to have their Earned Income Tax Credit reduced from 30% to 25 %) and the unemployment rate, which is already struggling.