Begging Democrats to stop playing budgetary politics

With Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman breaking the tie, the Connecticut state Senate voted last Monday night to approve a state employee “concessions” deal by a straight party-line Democrat vote with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition. SEBAC represents an overwhelming majority of the 50,000-plus state workers, and while I appreciate the value of their work, I voted “no” against this proposal since it creates a protected class of Connecticut citizenry and prevents future governments from actually enacting structural changes that will move our state forward.

This agreement is a bad deal for two important reasons. Firstly, it protects the entire state workforce from layoffs for four years and extends the life of the contract through 2027. As a result, a third of any budget is walled off from those elected leaders to set goals and provide for the needs of the most vulnerable. Who knows what demands will be placed on our state, let alone the economic health of taxpayers?

Sadly, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made no effort to make his union deal a bipartisan effort. He did not consult any Republicans – even though there are an equal number of state Senators from both parties and only a few more elected Democratic members of the House.

Secondly, this deal doesn’t address the serious costs to taxpayers of wages, health benefits and retiree expenses.

With this agreement in place, the General Assembly must still adopt a state budget and, once again, Malloy is playing the role of supreme ruler to get his way. The law allows him to manage the affairs of state under limited executive powers and he is making the most of it by threatening to cut education funding to certain school districts in favor of others that seem to be more politically supportive of his agenda.

Because of these delays, Malloy has announced he will cut $16 million in education funding to the Groton education system, a 66 percent cut that would render our schools almost inoperable. This is not a joke or drill, it is what passes for leadership in Hartford.

It is the definition of cruelty. Students, parents and teachers are being held hostage by Hartford politicians who don’t understand that Groton is not a wealthy town and that it should receive a fair amount of funding for educating its children.

To my Democratic colleagues, I beg that you work with Republicans who have offered detailed solutions to our budget crisis. Please work with us on a state budget that doesn’t put the needs of unions and big cities before the needs of everyone else.

I beg you to make our children’s education a priority instead of continuing to play politics.

I beg you to show a commitment to our local kids.

I beg you to sit down at the table with something to offer, something to show where your priorities are.

We were elected to set priorities and to provide a two-year state budget to keep our state competitive, affordable and attractive for working people, to create a Connecticut where everyone can count on a future.

These drastic actions by Malloy and the lack of urgency by his colleagues in the House and Senate should compel everyone to take action today and demand that those who are responsible for guaranteeing a fair budget get on with that task and get to work.

State Sen. Heather Somers represents the 18th District. A Republican, she lives in Groton.

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