New Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy was about to wrap-up his first budget town hall tonight when Maria Vereb, a state worker, asked to squeeze in a final question.
The social worker from Stratford drove to Bridgeport to ask Malloy to reconsider his position that public employees like herself must agree to $2 billion worth of concessions to help erase the $3.2 billion deficit.
Malloy, Stamford’s former mayor, narrowly won his race against Republican Tom Foley last November with substantial support from state unions. And now they’re feeling a little bit betrayed.
Vereb told Malloy she feels that his budget will hit her twice – in cuts to her salary/benefits and by hiking her middle class taxes.
She called it the “double whammy” and noted the unions already agreed to concessions two years ago.
Malloy rose to the occasion, criticizing the $700 million in concessions predecessor Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell got in 2009 and asking Vereb, rhetorically, where else he is supposed to turn to balance Connecticut’s books. He can’t solve the problem with tax hikes alone and refuses to shred the social services “safety net” for Connecticut’s poorest.
I’m not sure whether it’s fair to say Malloy appeared eager to take on a state employee’s criticisms in public, but he certainly did not seem uncomfortable.
These exchanges between the governor and the people who helped put him in office are likely to increase in the coming weeks as Malloy tries to sell his first budget at 16 other town halls across the state.
I asked Vereb afterward if she voted for Malloy in November because she thought he would defend state workers.
“I thought the other person (Foley) would scr** us over ten times. I didn’t expect him (Malloy) to scr** us over two times,” Vereb, who has worked for the state for 30 years, said. “I don’t think what we have now we don’t deserve.”
Vereb did not want to share her salary and what she pays for health benefits with me, but correctly noted that it is public information I can track down from the appropriate agencies.
Here’s a photo of Vereb, answering reporters’ questions.