The numbers just don’t add up. That’s my take on the $566 million in “savings” claimed recently by Gov. Dannel Malloy when he told the news media about the concession agreement he negotiated with state employee labor union leaders. Despite Connecticut’s constitution requiring a balanced budget, the governor rammed his two-year proposal through the legislature early last month even though he had yet to secure the $2 billion in union concessions he needed to keep his plan in the black. Malloy on May 13 announced his $1.6 million negotiated concession agreement—$400 million less than he promised in February.
Those “concessions” included:
• No increase in pension contributions or health care premiums
• A four-year no lay-off provision for the entire state workforce
• 10.3 percent salary increase over five years
• Five year extension of the much criticized health care and pension plan
• No furlough days costing taxpayers $42 million a year
• No changes in the $93 million, taxpayer-funded union steward positions
• No reduction health care benefits for state workers
Those are the types of concessions the thousands of folks who lost private sector jobs over the last couple of years would have gladly accepted.
In deflecting criticism over those concessions, Malloy promoted savings he said the negotiated plan would save the state—the $566 million. It’s noteworthy because the way he plans to achieve those savings directly contrast the image he set out to create: Malloy told us he would be an “honest” governor that avoided budgeting gimmicks.
Unfortunately, his “savings,” which equals roughly one-third of the $1.6 billion Malloy negotiated, are steeped in gimmicks:
• $205 million in anticipated savings from requiring state workers to become healthier overnight through annual check-ups and other “Value Added’’ Health care components
• $180 million in savings from state employee suggestion boxes to be placed throughout state government
• $90 million through greater technology
• $75 million from the “Health Cost Containment Initiative’’
• $13.5 million relating to prescription drugs going “off patent’’
• $3 million savings from voluntary obesity and tobacco programs.
Saving money through ideas pulled from a suggestion box? Can we base our budget on that? Sorry, but I just don’t see this as a recipe for budgetary success.
All of this, of course, leads us to the latest development: How does the governor, who has repeatedly slammed budget gimmicks used by the previous administration, propose to fill the $400 million shortfall left by the results of his less than stellar union negotiations?
With yet another gimmick, of course.
Governor Malloy recently announced he would raid the state’s rainy day fund, injecting one-shot revenue to avoid increasing taxes beyond his record $1.8 billion hike.
To sum up, the governor, over the course of a few weeks, passed a budget that: creates a $1 billion surplus through the largest tax hike in history, spends more than the last budget, and sees taxpayers and businesses “share” nearly all of the “sacrifice” while leaving government almost untouched.
The only thing that seems to add up is headaches for the average middle class taxpayers.