The major round of state employee layoffs that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has been hinting at since February is about two weeks away, the governor said Wednesday.
Malloy, who said the precise number would hinge, in part, on the number of worker retirement applications filed by Friday, also predicted the next round of budget-balancing would be much more difficult than the deficit-mitigation plan approved Tuesday.
Also Wednesday, leaders of the Republican minorities in the Senate and House warned that Tuesday’s bipartisan effort to close a $220 million gap in 2015-16 finances doesn’t guarantee more agreement across party lines when it comes to the next state budget.
State spending in 2016-17 is on pace to run more than $900 million in the red, and GOP leaders insist that Democrats must make “structural changes” to reduce labor costs significantly if they want Republican support.
Malloy, who met with Capitol reporters after a closed-door meeting with legislative leaders late Wednesday morning, said pink slips will be issued by mid-April.
“I think the time frame is a couple of weeks, give or take a couple of days,” the governor said.
The layoff process is extremely complicated, and labor contracts give most unionized workers served with pink slips — under certain circumstances — to remain employed by “bumping” a less-senior worker off the job.
Malloy said his layoff plan would try to minimize instances where workers might employ bumping rights.
He also declined to identify exactly how many layoffs would be ordered, though he insisted it would be “a very, very substantial number.”
The governor also encouraged state workers considering retirement this spring to do so. “If you can retire, please retire,” he said. “It can save somebody else’s job.”
Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the governor told legislative leaders that he expects the layoffs — coupled with retirements — to eventually produce annual savings in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
When asked to confirm Looney’s statement, Malloy replied: “Why would I doubt him?”
Malloy and legislators met one day after the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a plan to close a $220 million deficit in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
The legislature’s budget-writing panels are expected to produce options next week to close a the $900 million shortfall that nonpartisan analysts are tracking for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, have urged since last April tighter controls on overtime spending and new restrictions on longevity pay and worker health and retirement benefits.
These changes, many of which could only be implemented through negotiations with state employee unions, could significantly reduce deficits in future years, GOP lawmakers have said.
Union leaders have said they are not willing to grant concessions, noting that workers gave in 2009 and 2011. Instead they have urged officials to boost taxes on wealthy households and major corporations.
Malloy and his fellow Democrats in legislative leadership also rejected the idea of concessions last year, though they support that approach this spring.
Klarides said that while she was happy Democrats and Republicans agreed on spending cuts this week to balance 2015-16 finances, Democrats and union leaders need to cut labor costs if the bipartisan mood is to continue.
Now it’s a new day,” Klarides said. “We’ll see what progress they make.”
“If we don’t get structural changes, I don’t see Republicans on this (2016-17) package,” Fasano said.
Mark Pazniokas contributed to this story.