State employees are likely breathing a sigh of relief on this Friday the 13th, as Gov. Dannel Malloy has come to an agreement with the union leaders who represent them. Malloy released this statement Friday afternoon after holding a news conference in Hartford:
"I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with our fellow state employee leaders that will, over the next 20 years, save Connecticut taxpayers a total of 21 and a half billion dollars.
"This is the most significant agreement with state employees in Connecticut history, not just because it solves a short-term problem – but because it produces the kind of long-term, structural reform WE – Connecticut's residents, elected leaders and our state's workforce – so desperately need if we are to again grow, produce new jobs, and prosper together.
"Our agreement is also historic because of the way we achieved it. We respected the collective bargaining process and we respected each other, negotiating in good faith, without fireworks and without anger. To my friends in SEBAC, thank you. You have stepped up to the plate and said you want to be part of the solution. Under this agreement, we will all share in the sacrifices necessary to stabilize the state's finances.
"In the short-term, over the next two years, this agreement will save taxpayers 1.6 billion dollars. The remaining 400 million dollars we need to balance this budget will come from a mix of additional spending cuts and existing budgeted revenues.
"Taxes will not rise beyond what is already in this budget.
"This is the definition of structural savings: these savings are real, and they will provide relief to Connecticut taxpayers now and into the future for years to come. This agreement should serve as the foundation for affordable public services for a generation, and does not leave the bill for those services to the generations that follow.
"These savings were achieved in the areas of healthcare and pension benefits, and wages. Our fellow state employee leaders have asked us to refrain from discussing the specific details within each of those categories until they've had a chance to communicate them to their members. We're happy to comply with that request.
"One more point: there are no furlough days in this agreement, nor is there a reduction in the 40-hour work week. This means we've achieved these savings without reducing government's ability to serve its constituents, and without reducing employees' productivity.
"I want to thank the Democratic leaders for the strength and leadership they have demonstrated. We would not be standing here today without them.
"I want to thank Mark Ojakian and Linda Yelmini. They negotiated on behalf of my Administration, and that we are standing here today is in part a testament to their thoughtfulness, patience, and determination.
"I also want to thank the person who has been my true partner in this Administration since Day 1: Nancy Wyman, the best Lt. Governor a Governor could ever ask for. As many of you know, Nancy has a long-standing relationship with our state employee unions and their members, and her guidance and wisdom throughout this process has been invaluable. Thank you, Nancy.
"I want to be very clear that, as I said the day I signed the budget that was passed by the Legislature, this is not a day to celebrate. Yes, it's a significant accomplishment, and yes, it will save taxpayers an enormous amount of money over time – but anytime you ask sacrifices of people you need to be mindful of the impact on their lives. And I am.
"In return for all the sacrifices they have made, state employees have received job security. But let me be very clear about this: the work of revitalizing state government has just begun, and it will continue. Over the next few years, I intend to reduce the number of state employees, but rather than doing that by layoffs, we will do it by attrition, and by eliminating managerial positions. And we will make the state workforce more efficient by making smart investments in technology. We will give our state employees the tools they need to succeed.
"Now this agreement must be ratified by the individual employee bargaining units. As a show of good faith, I've directed OPM to immediately suspend the issuance of layoff notices, and to rescind the ones that have been issued so far. I urge my fellow state employees to approve this agreement in a timely fashion. Once ratified by the rank-and-file workers, we stand ready to work with the leadership of the General Assembly to secure final approval. When that happens, come July 1, the state will have in place a budget that is balanced with no gimmicks, and one that provides something the state hasn't had in many years: fiscal stability.
"Most of all, it will contain the type of structural reform Connecticut so desperately needs.
"Finally ... so much for Friday the 13th being an unlucky day!