Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley expanded his effort Tuesday to reassure state employees, saying he would not use layoffs to help close a projected, $1.4 billion deficit in next year’s state budget.
Foley, who already has said he would honor existing worker health and benefit levels, added Tuesday that he generally is comfortable with the size of the state workforce.
“I don’t have a sense that we have too many people in state government,” Foley told The Mirror. The Greenwich businessman also had discussed his position on the state workforce Tuesday morning on WDRC AM-1360.
According to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the state budget currently supports 58,170 full-time employees across all agencies, public colleges and universities.
State government provides a number of important services, including police protection, road and bridge maintenance, and social services, Foley said. “I don’t think Connecticut can stand layoffs, nor are they needed.”
Foley had said worker concessions were necessary when he ran for governor four years ago. At that point, nonpartisan state analysts were projecting a $3.7 billion deficit, equal to about 18 percent of expenses in the 2011-12 state budget.
Analysts again are projecting red ink, albeit a $1.4 billion shortfall, equal to a 7 percent gap in the budget due the legislature in February.
Foley told The Mirror during a late July interview that he would not seek to reopen the contract that defines health care, retirement and other benefits for nearly all state employees. That deal, which runs through 2022, has been criticized by many Republican legislators, who argue the benefits, despite union givebacks in 2011 and 2009, remain too generous.
“A contract’s a contract,” Foley said Monday. “You can’t have an effective organization if employees aren’t on board with your goals, if they don’t feel they are being fairly compensated, and if they aren’t secure in their jobs.”
While more than a dozen unions join to collectively bargain benefits with the state, they negotiate wages separately, and most are headed back to the bargaining table next year.
Foley has said repeatedly he would try to strike the best deal possible for the state with each of these wage contracts. But if the threat of layoffs is off the table, that effectively eliminates any chance that a wage freeze could be negotiated to help close the deficit.
“We definitely will have vigorous negotiations,” Foley added, “but one thing employees and unions should know about me is I am an honest person. What I say, I will do.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who defeated Foley in 2010 and again is the Democratic nominee, also has said he won’t seek concessions or layoffs.
Foley has been reluctant to provide many details of how he would close the projected deficit. He has ruled out tax increases, labor concessions and cuts in town aid. Foley primarily has insisted he can save hundreds of millions of dollars by renegotiating state payments to hospitals, other health care providers and insurance companies.