Amid signs that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget deal with the legislature is starting to wobble over objections by House Democrats, his administration took another step today to convey a sense of urgency by broadening a previously announced hiring freeze to cover all positions.

One of the key parties to the budget agreement announced last week, House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, hedged Thursday on his way to a meeting with Malloy over whether he had made a hard commitment to vote the budget by Tuesday.

“That was before the caucus,” Donovan said, referring to a House Democratic caucus over the budget Wednesday night. “There were some things unresolved. We have to work those things out.”

His goal remains a budget vote by Tuesday, he said.

Malloy said later today he remains confident that Donovan and Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, will lead their caucuses to the passage of the budget next week.

“I think we’re all in this together to try to get a budget vote,” Malloy said. “When I caucus, I caucus with two people, the speaker and the president pro tem. We have an agreement in our caucus. I expect that will be executed upon in the not too distant future.”

House Democrats seem to have two main objections: the 3-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax, and the issue of what will happen if Malloy fails to obtain his goal of $1 billion in concessions and other labor savings.

Williams has repeatedly said he is committed to a budget vote by the promised deadline of Tuesday.

But Williams said his caucus, too, wants a provision inserted in the budget that makes clear the legislature will return to vote on how to implement the concessions–or play a role in shaping the budget cuts Malloy will propose as an alternative.

The state employee unions have pushed for a vote, not wanting to cede to Malloy the unilateral power to adjust the budget if the concession talks fail.

Donovan said those concerns also came from his own members, not just allies of labor.

“We have a role. The legislature has  a role, and we want to maintain that,” Donovan said.

The hiring-freeze directive today to all agency heads came from Benjamin Barnes, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

“As you are aware, the State faces a very difficult and challenging financial situation for the upcoming biennium.  In January, my office issued a memo concerning the status of the hiring freeze that is currently in effect.

“That memo addressed the guidelines concerning the establishment and refills of positions.  Due to the uncertainty of achieving budgeted labor-management savings for the upcoming biennium, the following provisions will be added to the hiring freeze guidelines effective immediately:

  • All Funds Are Covered: Positions funded through federal, non-appropriated and revolving funds are included. No funds are exempt from this freeze.
  • All Positions Are Covered: In the past, positions that were considered direct care, public health and safety or revenue-generating may have been exempt from the hiring freeze. This will no longer be the case. We will review all positions on a case-by-case basis.
  • Refill Extensions: These will not be done automatically; each will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Increases in Hours: These requests will be reviewed in the context of overtime savings that will be achieved and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Promotions: All discretionary promotions and reclassifications of positions are included in this freeze.
  • Automatic Refill: There will be no automatic refill of positions. Each position request will be reviewed by OPM.
  • Temporary Worker Retirees: No new temporary worker retirees or extensions of temporary worker retiree positions will be granted unless specifically authorized by OPM.
  • Previously Authorized Positions: Previously approved refill authorization for most currently vacant positions has been rescinded. OPM will notify you of any exceptions which have been granted. Bona fide commitment letters dated on or before the date of this memo will be honored. Copies of such letters should be sent to your agency’s budget analyst.

“While we recognize that some positions are essential for critical agency operations, OPM will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.  Agencies must submit complete justifications as to why a critical position needs to be filled.  Justifications must include detailed explanations of need; implications of not filling the position and refill alternatives that have been considered.”

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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