Republican Tom Foley says if elected governor he can balance the budget without laying off state employees, but he faulted Democrat Dan Malloy today for making a similar pledge to a union.

The Foley campaign distributed an endorsement questionnaire in which Malloy told a state employees union he does not support layoffs or changes in the state’s binding-arbitration laws.

Foley said the questionnaire undercuts Malloy’s insistence during a televised debate Tuesday night that he has made no binding commitments to organized labor.

During the same debate, Foley said state employees have nothing to fear from him, because any necessary reductions in state workforce can be made through attrition.

So, what is the difference is in their positions?

Flexibility, says Foley.

“A governor should never give up the ability to have layoffs if they don’t get the cooperation of the union leadership,” Foley said.

“I’ve said in my plan the amount by which the state workforce probably needs to be reduced in order to meet our budget deficit can be done through attrition – assuming we get the cooperation of the union leadership.”

On a questionnaire prepared by the Administrative and Residual Employees Union, Malloy was asked, “Will you support state employee layoffs after the Gubernatorial Agreement ends in July 2011?”

He checked a box marked “No.” He also wrote, “We’ve been very clear we have no interest in laying off state employees.”

Malloy said today that he intends no layoffs, but the questionnaire forecloses nothing.

“Am I running to lay off people? The answer is no,” Malloy said. “Is everything on the table? The answer is yes.”

Malloy also replied on the questionnaire that he agrees with the union’s opposition to legislative changes in binding arbitration laws.

“We are strong supporters of collective bargaining and binding arbitration,” he said.

Malloy said he sees no need to change the state’s binding arbitration law, which outlawed strikes by public employees in return for an arbitration system to break contract deadlocks.

“I have no intention of giving firemen and police officers and teachers the right to strike,” Malloy said. “We need a binding arbitration system, period.”

Foley said he believes the law is tilted toward public employees and can be amended without giving them the right to strike.

He laughed when asked if he filled out the same questionnaire.

“No union sent me a questionnaire to fill in,” Foley said. “I made no commitment to the unions or anybody else. My only commitment is to the voters.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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