Malloy lays out scaled-back plan to cut state workforce

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy now plans to eliminate about 1,100 fewer state jobs than the 7,675 he targeted in an earlier budget-balancing plan, according to a summary of the latest proposal he will submit Friday to the General Assembly.

The proposal includes 6,060 jobs in the Executive Branch, including 4,328 currently filled permanent positions, 1,599 vacant positions and 133 temporary jobs. Malloy’s plan also sets targets of 450 job reductions in the Judicial Branch and 50 fewer legislative positions. The plan also refers to filled positions being eliminated due to both layoffs and retirements, but it doesn’t identify how many of each are anticipated.

The Executive Branch agencies targeted for the biggest losses in terms of numbers are the departments of Transportation (884), Correction (863), Developmental Services (500), Mental Health and Addiction Services (474), Children and Families (362), Emergency Services and Public Protection (300) and the University of Connecticut (345).

The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection was recently created by the merger of the departments of Public Safety and Emergency Management & Homeland Security.

In a tentative plan unveiled on July 1, Malloy recommended about 1,000 vacant positions for elimination, and layoffs for more than 6,600 employees.

The budget cuts in some departments have changed since the earlier projections, as have the number of job cuts.

In the Department of Correction, the number of job losses is now 863, down from the recommended 1,170. The State Department of Education is losing 134 positions, not the 327 that were recommended.

While the public might find some service cuts acceptable, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, said “there are going to be other areas where services are actually untenable in the long run, and there will no doubt be some pressure to restore them.”

Though full details of the plan won’t be released until reported to the legislature on Friday, Barnes confirmed that four branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles — in Danbury, Enfield, Old Saybrook and Putnam — would be closed, as would three DMV photo centers, which were not identified.

Though full details weren’t available, the administration plans to reduce substance abuse treatment beds at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and close two branch offices of the Department of Social Services.

There will be “less of a safety net than there is today,” something unavoidable that the governor did not want to do, said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser. “It’s not shredded the way it’s been in some other states,” he added.

Barnes said there will be no major changes to Medicaid eligibility, and that health care for the poor will be preserved, although there will be some adjustments. “We have not eliminated any major pieces of Medicaid or done anything to dismantle our commitment to health care for the poor,” he said.

But Barnes noted that much of the safety net is provided by state employees, who care for people in need through health care, mental health care or services for people with disabilities.

“There are state employees actively involved in providing the care that is the safety net, and that piece will be especially hard hit by the large number of layoffs that are occurring across state government,” he said.

Both Barnes and Occhiogrosso conceded that the budget-balancing plan likely would draw considerable criticism, but noted that the administration has had to scramble to replace the $1.6 billion in savings a failed concession deal was expected to provide over this fiscal year and next.

“I don’t fool myself that we got it perfect,” Barnes said.

“As the governor has said, ‘What’s the alternative?'” Occhiogrosso said. “The state is facing a massive fiscal crisis.

Occhiogrosso noted that reducing the size of government was something Malloy has spoken about since he was a candidate, although he said the governor would have preferred to have done so as part of an agreement with state employees.

“This process of downsizing state government was going to occur anyway,” he said.

Another area of downsizing that drew immediate criticism involved the elimination of a new class of 57 state police troopers.

Sgt. Andy Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said that while he appreciates the fiscal crisis the governor is facing, eliminating those 57 troopers would drop the overall force to 1,070 – well below the statutorily mandated level of 1,248.

“I believe he’s in a difficult spot right now. I get it,” Matthews said, adding he nonetheless believes the position cuts would affect public safety. “There are other ways to save money.”

The union president also noted that on the campaign trail last fall, Malloy said “he wouldn’t put a price on the value of protecting the citizens of the state of Connecticut.”

In a campaign position paper, Malloy noted last fall that state police trooper ranks were below the mandated mark, adding that “we must …ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorily required State Police staffing levels.”

Occhiogrosso said Thursday that “the reduction in the (trooper) positions will not compromise public safety.”

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, a board comprised of representatives of all 15 state employee unions, is meeting Monday to consider as-yet-undisclosed changes to SEBAC bylaws governing the ratification process for concession proposals.

The last concession deal failed even though 11 out of 15 unions, representing about 57 percent of unionized employees, supported the package. But the threshold for ratification is 14 unions representing at least 80 percent of the membership.

Malloy has called that standard unworkable and has said he is unwilling to reopen labor talks unless union leaders reduce that standard.

SEBAC spokesman Matt O’Connor said that while the bylaw review process continues and union leaders remain hopeful of reaching another agreement with Malloy, “any layoffs in this economic climate are bad for the citizens. … It certainly isn’t going to help grow the economy.”

Malloy must submit his full budget-balancing plan to legislative leaders on Friday.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, said it’s essential that lawmakers listen to public reaction to these layoffs and service cuts, adding he’s skeptical that the Democrat-controlled legislature would accommodate such forums, given that they would expose Malloy, also a Democrat, to public criticism.

But House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, said Thursday that “we have tentative plans to conduct a public hearing on specific items in the proposal on or before August 15.”

Donovan also said that “The plan submitted by the governor today makes it abundantly clear that the interests of the state, the people of Connecticut and state employees are best served by a concessions agreement between the administration and state employees,” and he urged both sides to work toward a new one.