Malloy challenged to trim his own staff before ordering layoffs

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was challenged by his critics Monday to reduce his own office’s staffing–where total salaries are up 9 percent in annual value over May 2010–before deciding how many state employee layoffs are needed to balance the budget.

“We’re not going to balance the budget on cuts to the governor’s office alone, but it’s important, it’s symbolic, to make them,” Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, said.

The governor’s senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, said cuts within the administration would be part of the plan to re-balance the next state budget in the face of the failed union concession deal.

Malloy and the General Assembly were counting on $700 million in concessions to help balance the $20.14 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and another $901 million in savings for 2012-13.

“It’s the responsibility of any leader, in the public sector or the private sector, to lead by example,” said Susan G. Kniep, president of the Connecticut Federation of Taxpayer Organizations, who also called Monday for Malloy to cut spending in his own office.

Malloy, a Democrat, scored big points with state employee unions during last fall’s campaign when he pledged to cut the governor’s staff by 15 percent. Unions have long argued that the entire Executive Branch is plagued with excessive administration.

But did that mean just the governor’s office?

When pressed to clarify the campaign pledge by Republican nominee Tom Foley, Malloy said the reductions could come not only from the governor’s office and the Office of Policy and Management, which advises the governor on budget and policy matters, but also from agency leadership and other appointments spread throughout the Executive Branch.

Although he didn’t provide a full accounting Monday, Occhiogrosso said the 15 percent target has been reached in terms of numbers of personnel across the entire Executive Branch.

But when it comes to the governor’s office, Malloy hasn’t hit the target in terms of payroll.

Salaries for the governor’s office are up $186,660, or 8.9 percent, since May 2010, according to payroll data filed with the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis and by the administration’s Office of Policy and Management.

There are 30 people in the governor’s office down from the 32 employed by his predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, in May 2010. Given the drop in overall staff, the administration estimates the governor’s office’s personal services account will drop $39,466 next fiscal year, or 2 percent.

Malloy has trimmed the Office of Policy and Management, the Executive Branch’s chief budget and policy agency, where salaries are down $630,293, or 5 percent, from a year ago. Staffing has decreased from 134 to 127, about 5.5 percent.

Kniep, a former East Hartford mayor whose current organization includes 30 community-based taxpayer groups, said Malloy broke his own pledge with the salaries assigned to his office staff.

“Governor Malloy certainly gave the impression that reductions would be made and it would begin at the top,” she said, adding he needs to cut administrative spending at least by the pledged amount. “To do less would be an insult, not only to the taxpayers but to the state employee unions themselves.”

“The information, to me, is further evidence of a disturbing trend,” McKinney said. “It’s another example where this governor has said one thing and done another.”

McKinney added that “I certainly took his pledge not as a reduction in people, but as a reduction in spending.”

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which announced Monday it would re-examine its members vote to reject wage and benefit concessions in hopes of finding a way to avert layoffs, declined to weigh in on the salary issue. “Right now we’re just focused on being part of the solution,” SEBAC spokesman Larry Dorman said.

Nonetheless, Occhiogrosso said Monday that more savings would be found within the administration. “That will be part of it,” he said, though he didn’t identify specific reductions.

Malloy’s senior adviser also said Monday that the administration is studying options to mitigate the number of layoffs that would be ordered to balance the budget, and that the governor now is hopeful that fewer than the previously estimated 7,500 job cuts would be ordered. “Those decisions are being made as we speak,” Occhiogrosso said Monday afternoon, adding a final announcement about layoff totals might not come until early next week. “It’s a little bit of a surgical process.”

(Editor’s note: This article originally compared the goveror’s office payroll of June 2011 with that of June 2010. However, the Rell administration move several employees into other agencies during June 2010 as it prepared for the end of Rell’s term. The governor’s office had 32 employees in May 2010 compared with 25 the following month.)