The state Senate just a few moments ago began the debate over the package of concessions reached between Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the state unions.
The House of Representatives approved the package early this morning with only a few members voting “no.”
Some Republicans in the House complained about pieces of the deal but there were no real hard-hitting comments. Democrats generally praised the proposal and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, had good things to say about both the Governor and state employees.
But a few minutes ago Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, said what I’ve heard privately and publicly from some lawmakers since the concessions deal was reached one week ago. He said it is “bizarre” for Rell to, on the one hand, tell legislators they must make more cuts before considering tax hikes and on the other hand promise no permanent unionized state workers will be laid off until summer, 2011.
“For the life of me I don’t understand how you can say ‘no lay offs’ and at the same time tell the General Assembly we’ve got to do deep spending cuts,” Meyer said.
Meyer noted legislators like Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, are trying to develop proposals for merging departments to cut the 2009-10 and 2010-11 deficits and Rell’s deal only complicates matters.
“The Governor’s put us in a box,” Meyer said.
But the administration and unions argue the combination of an early retirement plan with a hiring freeze with the ability to shift employees to other jobs within state government provides enough flexibility to restructure government.
And yesterday House Republicans and the administration began pitching a new case for the concessions. They said if Rell laid off 6,000 workers, it would result in $600 million worth of savings – $100 million less than that estimated under the deal with the unions.
On the other hand Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, just called the deal Rell struck “a strategic, humane and thoughtful approach.”
It’s bizarre when a Democrat is complaining about efforts to protect union employees and a Republican is arguing it’s the “humane” thing to do.
Although Kissel’s district is home to some state prisons and the state workers who run them. Maybe that has something to do with it.