Transportation Commissioner James Redeker (foreground) and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (background)
Transportation Commissioner James Redeker (foreground) and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (background) CTMIROR

With Gov. Dannel P. Malloy planning major enhancements for Connecticut’s transportation network, the union representing state engineers moved Monday to ensure its members are leading that effort.

CSEA-SEIU Local 2001 also released Department of Transportation analyses from last fall showing engineering and inspection work done by private contractors cost 36 to 52 percent more than that done by state employees. The DOT had to turn to the private sector, though, because of inadequate staffing.

The union also has been on edge since last fall when it became clear that a Malloy administration initiative to beef up DOT professional staffing had not materialized.

“We have been saying for years that privatization is a gigantic waste of resources and now we finally have the department’s own evaluations to prove our point,” union President Stephen Anderson and Travis Woodward – president of the engineers bargaining unit within Local 2001 – wrote last week to DOT Commissioner James Redeker.

“We are using expensive outside contractors to do the state’s work because we can’t hire more people,” Anderson and Woodward added. “And we can’t hire more people because the state is simultaneously dealing with a budget deficit caused in part by wasteful practices.”

“The governor is starting this important dialogue on transportation precisely because we’re looking to build for the future – not just for the next fiscal quarter, but for the next quarter century,” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said. “We want to lay out a vision for the next several decades, and how we approach staffing and project management will be part of the discussion going forward.”

During his re-election campaign last fall, Malloy frequently shielded himself from attacks that transportation projects have progressed slowly on his watch by noting this year’s budget adds 103 full-time positions to the DOT – an agency both private-sector transportation advocates and state employee unions have argued is badly understaffed.

Those 103 new positions in the budget include 66 engineering posts, which are vital to the DOT’s capacity to launch new projects in prompt fashion.

But nonpartisan analysts are projecting a $1.3 billion deficit in the next state budget, and the governor’s critics noted that his past efforts to deal with red ink all included tight restrictions on new hiring.

And just because a position is included in the state budget does not mean money will be spent and the job will be filled.

According to the last statewide personnel report, DOT staffing not only has not grown in this budget, but the 2,971 full-time employees it has on hand is 111 fewer than it had when the last budget closed on June 30.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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