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A state police training troop (file photo) Connecticut State Police

A new contract granting state police raises and a paid lunch break tops a list of six new labor deals that would cost $58 million collectively by 2022 — and also could throw a last-minute wrench into state budget negotiations.

As legislators and Gov. Ned Lamont struggle to craft a new biennial budget — and avert a multi-billion-dollar projected shortfall, five tentative contracts and one arbitration award would add $32 million in new costs over the next two fiscal years alone.

The Senate chairwoman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee said state officials have been squirreling away funds to cover those raises, at least for the upcoming two-year budget cycle. 

But the top House Republican on the committee said Connecticut simply can’t afford those raises, especially when Gov. Ned Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature are proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax hikes.

“It’s not a question of do they deserve it,” Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said of the arbitrator-endorsed raises for police troopers as well as five tentative deals proposing raises for several other groups of state employees. “We don’t have it.”

The lion’s share of the potential additional costs involves an arbitration award that provides for a new four-year deal for the police union.

Rep. Gail Lavielle of Wilton, ranking House Republican on the Appropriations Committee

The award, which still must be considered by the legislature, would be retroactive to the start of the current fiscal year back on July 1, 2018, and would run through June 30, 2022.

The award would cost the state $46.2 million across four fiscal years, according to Lamont’s budget office, including $25.2 million over the next two fiscal years combined.

The most costly change involves the 30-minute meal break troopers currently receive, changing its status from unpaid to paid from this point forward.

This would cost the state between $4 million and $4.4 million in each of the next four fiscal years and its value exceeds the cost-of-living adjustments and step increases — combined — that troopers also could receive.

According to the arbitration award, troopers must be available to be contacted and dispatched during their meal, and also must take the break within their respective patrol areas.

The union has a lawsuit pending against the state regarding the current conditions of the meal break, and this award — if ratified by the legislature — would resolve that dispute, said Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

“We still have to pay our workers,” Osten said, adding that she favors ratifying the troopers’ union award as well as endorsing five other tentative contracts negotiated by the Lamont administration. “Many of our workers have not seen a pay increase in years.”

Osten said the state should have about $40 million left in a special reserve account for employee raises when this fiscal year ends on June 30. The plan is to carry those funds forward into the next two-year budget cycle to cover the cost of raises for troopers and other unionized employees.

Besides being paid during the meal break, the arbitration award also calls for police to receive a 2 percent cost-of-living raise next fiscal year and a 2.25 percent hike in both 2021 and 2022. Members not at the top of the pay scale also would be eligible for step increases each year.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CtMirror.org file photo

Arbitrator James W. Mastriani wrote that police have been stretched much thinner in recent years.

“The current staffing levels have substantially diminished from the levels of three years prior,” he wrote. The union includes 881 troopers, sergeants and master sergeants this year, compared with 1,075 three years ago.

Andrew Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Mastriani awarded no cost-of-living adjustment or step increases for troopers for the current fiscal year, noting that many state employees forfeited raises from 2017 through 2019 as part of a concessions deal ratified two years ago.

The troopers’ union also had declined to provide wage concessions when most other bargaining units had in 2011.

The arbitrator also accepted the Lamont administration’s proposal to eliminate longevity pay for state police. The 2011 concessions deal eliminated longevity pay for new hires in most other state employee unions. Lawmakers subsequently eliminated longevity bonuses for non-union staff.

The Lamont administration did not comment for this story.

Lavielle noted that Lamont also has not weighed in on several other labor deals granting raises that went before lawmakers this year.

“Maybe he doesn’t want to see them go down,” she said. “Maybe he’s thinking about politics and not what this state can afford.”

Besides the arbitration award involving troopers, the legislature also must consider five tentative contracts the Lamont administration recently negotiated.

Most of these involve very small bargaining units, including some newly unionized groups seeking to join larger units.

These agreements call for 3.5 percent cost-of-living raises in each of the next two fiscal years for unions representing:

  • Plant facility engineers
  • Managers, engineers, planners and other professionals
  • Judicial Branch lawyers
  • Court planners, administrative support staff and paralegals
  • And information technology specialists for the court system
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Keith M. PhaneufState Budget Reporter

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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9 Comments

  1. This state is in a state of fiscal collapse and there giving out raises.nothing like throwing a little gas on the brush fire

    1. Best I can recall CT has given out public employee annual raises consistently over the past 4 decades I’ve been resident. Best we focus on the total taxes required to fund those salary boosts. There is a linkage between CT taxes and its decade long depressed economy. But not every Legislator sees the connection.

  2. Raising CT State worker salaries/benefits is unlikely to boost CT’s decade long stagnant economy/employment levels any more than raising taxes to cover extra worker costs. But it will encourage those affected CT employees to support Legislators who favor higher wages. So we know our State’s economic prospects. Continued stagnation, exodus of jobs/firms/residents and reluctance of business interests to invest and create jobs here. It’s an old story in CT. Likely has some more “Chapters” to run before the causal linkages between State salaries, taxation and stagnant economy is better understood.

    1. No. Although the State Police did not vote to give concessions as other unions did (as the article makes clear), they are not getting a raise during this fiscal year because the other unions didn’t get raises this fiscal year. I know it’s of no help, but those are the facts.

  3. Wow. Just when you think you have seen it all… paid meal times. And if the State Police get it, how long before other unions demand the same benefit? Correction officers? Doctors? Nurses? Where will it all end? (I know the answer: it won’t end. Ever.)

  4. Senator Osten (D) said:”the state should have about $40 million left in a special
    reserve account for employee raises when this fiscal year ends on June
    30. The plan is to carry those funds forward into the next two-year
    budget cycle to cover the cost of raises for troopers and other
    unionized employees.”

    Great plan! Wonderful plan! But I have a question for Senator Osten: when that “special reserve” account is used up, what then? Those raises (and the other wonderful plan to give paid meal breaks) go on into the future, beyond the next two-year budget cycle.

  5. The problem isn’t the Troopers getting raises, it’s the destruction of the private sector middle class that has been outsourced and replaced by foreign visa guest workers (think Infosys) and illegal immigrants that can no longer fund State government! Wake up people!

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