26 CT agencies say no more layoffs — for now

The leaders of 26 Executive Branch agencies have informed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office of significant cuts they will be making to meet major savings targets in the new state budget. They also have said that no state employees need to be laid off beyond those already announced.

That is, unless their budgets are reduced further – which remains a distinct possibility.

From left, Robert Smith, Warden John Tarascio, Gov. Dannel P, Malloy, Commissioner Scott Semple, Adam Lincoln and Hiram McReynolds at the opening of a reintegration unit for veterans in November.

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Gov. Dannel P, Malloy, center, and Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple, to Malloy’s left, meet with inmates at a prison in Enfield.

“At this time, no further layoffs appear necessary in order for the agency to operate within budget,” Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple wrote the Office of Policy and Management.

The Department of Rehabilitation Services wrote it “does not anticipate any additional position or program changes.”

So far, state agencies have laid off hundreds of workers to eliminate 825 positions and have announced they will not fill hundreds more as people quit or retire. Just under $325 million in cuts to salary accounts and related savings are built into the state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The downsizing of the state workforce has come with consequences that state commissioners outlined in plans they submitted to the governor’s budget and policy office on July 15.

“Seasonals assisting with mosquito-control activities will be reduced. … Maintenance and inspection of dams, flood areas, bridges, roads and buildings will be reduced,” the plan for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reads. “Additional overtime reductions will reduce the ability to respond to wildlife complaints, including bears, coyotes, etc, outside normal business hours.”

For the state police, 27 full-time troopers working on specialized assignments have been reassigned to patrol duties after several positions were not filled.

“Troopers in specialized units perform investigative and support functions, and none of the transfers were easy decisions. No additional transfers would be possible without collapsing investigative functions entirely,” wrote Dora P. Schriro, the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

Dora B. Schriro at her confirmation hearing.

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Dora B. Schriro, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, at her confirmation hearing.

The state police also are declining requests to provide free help with crowd and traffic control at large events throughout the state, such as Sailfest in New London, Hartford Riverfest and UConn football games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The state library has closed the Willimantic Library Service Center.

While Malloy, a Democrat, has the authority to reject plans submitted to his budget and policy office, a spokesman there said it doesn’t expect those plans to lead to further layoffs at the agencies that have submitted their plans so far.

Those include the departments of Economic and Community Development, Social Services, Education, Housing, Public Health and Aging. (Links to all the plans are below.)

Major agencies that still have not submitted plans are the departments of Developmental Services, Early Childhood, Children and Families and Transportation.

A big part of the governor and legislature’s plan to close a nearly $1 billion deficit in 2016-17 finances without raising taxes is tied to savings that weren’t specifically identified when the $19.76 billion budget was adopted in mid-May.

That plan requires the administration to achieve nearly $190 million in savings once the budget is underway.

The governor’s budget office divided responsibility for about $130 million of that savings among the agencies last month, and they responded with the plans filed with OPM. But another $60 million in savings still must be assigned and ultimately achieved.

In addition, there recently have been signs that assumptions about likely tax revenues in the new budget might be too aggressive.

Since the 2016-17 plan was adopted, the administration has downgraded income and corporation tax receipts applied to 2015-16 by about $100 million and $30 million, respectively.

And since prior year’s tax receipts are a crucial factor used to project likely revenues in the following year, these reductions raise questions about the stability of the new budget.

State employees rally outside the Capitol to protest threatened layoffs and requests for givebacks.

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org

State employees rally outside the Capitol in March to protest threatened layoffs and requests for givebacks.

In order to avoid more layoffs – based on the funding levels they have now – agencies largely plan to eliminate or scale back overtime significantly or not fill positions as people retire or quit throughout this fiscal year.

“We are confident we can sustain these savings if we maintain current staffing levels,” wrote Schriro.

Positions that will be left vacant range from a drug control agent and an off-track betting supervisor at the Department of Consumer Protection to engineers and inspectors at the environmental protection agency to teachers and security at the state-run Vocational Technical High School System.

Investigator positions that the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities – an agency that investigates discrimination – reports it “desperately needs” will not be filled.

At the Department of Motor Vehicles – which has come under fire over the last year for its long wait times – several positions will not be filled to save $500,000.

Some key positions are being filled, including at the Office of Labor Relations within the governor’s budget agency as it works to reach agreements with unions on expired labor contracts.

“These vacancies have been deemed critical to refill,” the plan for the Office of Policy and Management reads.

State employee unions have rejected the governor’s request to negotiate a new round of concessions. Labor leaders note that workers gave in 2009 and in 2011, and say legislators and Malloy should raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations to stabilize state finances.

DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby

DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby

Other service cuts

The adopted state budget cuts hundreds of millions to other programs and services, many provided by companies, non-profit providers or municipalities across the state.

Highlights from the plans submitted so far include:

  • A reduction of printed copies of hunting and fishing guides and other recreation programs.(Savings: $150,300)
  • A reduction in the monitoring of air toxins, ozone and water-quality that “may result in inability to characterize public health risk from air toxins” or “may compromise water quality.” (Savings: $658,963)
  • A 14 percent cut to the contractors that help process Medicaid applications and claims. The Department of Social Services has struggled in the past with enrolling low-income residents in a timely fashion. Some low-income residents still face waits to enroll in long-term care, due to complexity involving financial reviews, although most are processed within federal standards. (Savings over $4 million). Read more on these cuts here.
  • A reduction at the Access New Haven Health Program in staff who coordinate patients and medical professionals who donate speciality services for those without insurance. That program, which reduces the number of people showing up in the emergency room for care, last year provided services to 630 people. (Savings: $56,000)
  • Cuts in health centers at schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families. (Total savings: $367,000, including $31,000 in Hartford, $40,000 in New Haven, and $21,000 in Danbury)
  • Fewer subsidies for senior citizens (Savings: a 5 percent reduction)
  • Elimination of the program that provides tax breaks for property owners who rent housing units at an affordable level
  • A cut to a program that provides a caretaker so family members who care for senior citizens can get some time to themselves  (savings: $242,484)
  • A delay in leasing more than 100 new state police vehicles to replace vehicles with high mileage.
  • Cuts to legal services for Inmates at Connecticut’s prisons.
  • Cuts to programs for newly released prison inmates. Non-residential services are being cut and residential programs that offer substance abuse programs are being repurposed to provide only work release and temporary housing. (Savings: $8.5 million)
  • Billing participating schools and libraries to offset cuts to a program that helps provides high-speed internet to some schools in Connecticut.
  • Cuts and a shifting of costs to school districts for equipment for the deaf and blind, such as braille, large-print textbooks and other adaptive equipment. (Savings: $554,000)
  • The mosquito surveillance program that tests for things like Zika “will face significant cuts without additional funding”
  • Restricting toxicology testing on corpses to instances when it is needed to determine the cause and manner of death (Savings: $145,000)

State agency budget plans for the fiscal year that began July 1
State Agency Plans
Administrative Services Read the plan
Aging Read the plan
Agricultural Experiment Station Read the plan
Agriculture Read the plan
Chief Medical Examiner Read the plan
Consumer Protection Read the plan
Correction Read the plan
Economic and Community Development Read the plan
Emergency Services and Public Protection Read the plan
Energy and Environmental Protection Read the plan
Education Read the plan
Higher Education Read the plan
Housing Read the plan
Human Rights and Opportunities Read the plan
Labor Read the plan
Mental Health and Addiction Services Read the plan
Motor Vehicles Read the plan
Policy and Management Read the plan
Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities Read the plan
Psychiatric Security Review Board Read the plan
Public Health Read the plan
Rehabilitation Services Read the plan
Revenue Services Read the plan
State Library Read the plan
Social Services Read the plan
Teachers Retirement Read the plan

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