Monday, July 31, 2017

Connecticut Lost an Opportunity Today…


The Democrats’ approval of State employee union agreements that extend rich benefits for ten years to 2027 is a tragic lost opportunity to change the direction of our state.

Governor Malloy and Democrats tout savings in this deal but fail to recognize new costs that may create more instability for our state budgets and increase future unfunded liabilities. This agreement guarantees significant tax increases, more burdens on cities and towns and deep social service cuts.

THREE MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH LABOR DEAL

1) Ties the hands of future lawmakers and governors by:

  • Locking the state into an extended contract that prohibits privatization of services
  • Eliminating any opportunity to streamline state government. That means the legislature can’t consolidate administrative functions, close prisons or move services to private nonprofits to enhance and preserve care. 
  • Even more unsettling, language contained in the agreement arguably could eliminate the legislature’s current ability to make changes to pension and health care benefits in its entirety, thereby stripping us of any legislative control we have now to rein in labor costs in the future. If our financial problems worsen, this deal will not only lock us in to a contract for 10 years, it will also eliminate the legislature’s statutory authority to do anything about it after any contract expires. The result will be devastating and force lawmakers to turn to cutting services or implementing layoffs in tough financial times. 
2) While the administration is quick to tout the savings in this deal, there has been little discussion about the costs contained in the agreement that could create more instability and increase unfunded liabilities this state cannot bear in future years such as:

  • A one-time payment to state employees of 2.5% of salary plus $1,000.  For an average employee this will result in a payment of $2,850.
  • Guaranteed wage increases and step increases beginning in 2020.
  • No end to longevity payments, rather just a delay.
  • No capping or elimination of overtime from current state employees’ pensions. 
  • Allowing hazardous duty employees to purchase service time to count towards eligibility for retirement, an idea that was rejected in 2015 due to its potential to “dramatically increase” costs and unfunded liabilities.
  • New costly provisions that a) extend maternity and paternity leave for months beyond federal law and b) allow state employees to use an unlimited amount of their sick time to care for another which could result in an employee leaving work for months or even years and the state being unable to refill that position.  

3) The deal also continues to perpetuate and in some cases increase inequities in the current benefits system favoring certain state employees.

  • For example, the deal allows the state to spend significantly more on those employees with the highest wages by continuing to go above and beyond federal law to cover Medicare Part B higher premium costs for high earning state employees.
  • The governor’s deal would also ask more of non-hazardous-duty state employees, while allowing hazardous-duty employees to pay less in health care premium costs even though they retire at a younger age and receive benefits for a longer period of time.
  • The deal also extends increased costs onto non-unionized employees but offers them no job security protections and continues to require non-union state employees to pay more for health care premiums. This incentivizes unionization of managers. 

OUR ALTERNATIVE

  • Senate Republicans have offered a different concession plan that would achieve greater savings, reduce our unfunded liabilities, and create the stability our state employees who work hard every day deserve.
  • Unlike other proposals, it does not include harmful wage reductions, excessive furlough days and does not change benefits until after 2022 once the current contract expires.
  • Instead, it would put state employee benefits more in line with the benefits received by municipal union employees such as firefighters, police officers, and teachers and non-government union workers.
  • It would create a fair system, with lower premium costs for those who make less.
  • It could also be implemented by legislative action alone once the current labor contract expires because we are not interfering with existing contracts.

 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

State Budget Labor Savings Must Exceed $2 Billion


Connecticut’s state budget is in dire straits. As we negotiate a two-year spending plan an overwhelming $5 billion deficit is threatening all state services. Unfortunately, this fiscal environment was predicted by me and my fellow Republican legislators over the past six years.

Governor Malloy’s budget proposal includes $1.567 billion in anticipated savings from negotiations with state employee unions. Twelve collective bargaining agreements are under negotiations now with the Governor. These new contracts will have long-term impacts on Connecticut taxpayers long after Governor Malloy leaves office in January 2019.

Given the bad news delivered by our state tax collector that the Top 100 taxpayers’ income dropped a whopping 45% last year, Governor Malloy should be seeking even greater savings from state employee union negotiations. Calculating the increased budget deficit projected since the Governor released his budget proposal requires an additional $664 million in labor savings.

Governor Malloy should be seeking $2.231 billion in labor savings during his twelve labor contracts negotiations. Connecticut taxpayers will vote with their feet if these negotiations fall short.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Why Question a Supreme Court Justice?

The recent editorial in The Connecticut Law Tribune regarding the role of the legislature in reviewing the reappointment of Justice Richard Palmer not only missed the mark of our state’s constitutional history and procedure, it actually contradicted itself in trying to argue for judicial independence and a rubber stamp approval of a justice.

Unlike the federal court system, where judges serve for life, our Constitution provides that justices are appointed to 8-year terms. Reappointment requires a legislative hearing and approval. The editorial seemed to indicate that any questioning of a justice was an improper violation of the separation of powers. I would argue that a lack of questioning would be an abdication of the legislature’s constitutional “check”, our duty to consider and approve a justice. Is the Judiciary the only branch of government worthy of protection in the editorial board’s eyes?


The editorial also decried any opposition to “judicial activism”, which it defined as “merely an indelicate euphemism for, ‘a position I disagree with.’" This is a petulant attempt at dismissing a theory and belief that a judge’s opinions should be based upon the law, not upon political or personal considerations, that the making of policy is a legislative function, not a judicial one. At least one justice recognized that, writing at the time of reappointment in 1999, “I do not believe judges are free to substitute their own views for those of the Constitutional framers or the legislature”. That justice was Richard Palmer. Why is it improper to now question him about substituting his views for those of the general assembly?


In his decision in Santiago II, Palmer ignored voluminous, unprecedented legislative intent to repeal the death penalty prospectively, arguably “substituting” his views for those of the lawmakers. The Chief State’s Attorney’s “Motion for Argument” states the opinion, “addresses issues, undertakes analysis and relies on materials that were never raised or presented by the defendant, and never subjected to any adversarial inquiry.” It also bases much of the decision on a shift in the “contemporary standards of decency.”


As stated in the editorial, "In his comments to the Program Review and Investigations Committee of our state Legislature, Judge Robert C. Leuba, then-chief court administrator, said, in October 2000, ‘judicial independence is critical to the functioning of any democracy,’ because it is the ‘duty of a judge to decide each case according to an objective evaluation and application of the law, without the influence of outside factors.’’ Palmer’s decision arguably involved the consideration of matters never raised by the defendant, as well as the nebulous “shift in standards of decency”. These were arguably “other factors” besides the law that were considered in the decision, but according to the editorial, should not be questioned. That is simply wrong.


Judicial activism should be shocking and abhorrent to all lawyers, legislators and citizens.


As to the fact that a majority had signed on to Palmer’s decision in LaPointe, and seemingly agreed to his harshly worded footnote, is not an excuse for Palmer. No other justice who signed onto the footnote was up for reappointment – only the author. In the interest of retaining civility at our state’s highest court, any justice who authors or agrees with such contemptuous writings should expect to be questioned about it at their time of reconfirmation.


The editorial continued, “It would be perfectly acceptable for legislators to vote against the confirmation of a judge whose lack of judicial temperament, ill manner and disregard for the rule of law have been well documented.” Judicial temperament and manners do not just extend to those appearing before a jurist. It is incumbent on the relationship with colleagues as well, and the recent writings of Justice Palmer raise legitimate questions as to his relationship with fellow justices.


The Law Tribune chooses to ignore the constitutional role of the legislature in the reappointment of justices and chooses to ignore serious issues raised by Justice Palmer’s decisions. They should not attack the General Assembly for choosing not to ignore their duty in such serious matters.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reality for Our State Budget

I am pleased to support a Republican budget proposed today that closes the 2017 deficit of $935.7 million and creates a five-year framework that puts state government back on track.


Our proposal restores funding for social services, education and hospitals while providing municipalities with mandate relief. We refuse to force local property tax payers to shoulder the burden of the state budget mismanagement.


Since my arrival at the State Capitol in 2009 I've witnessed a dysfunctional state budget process that ignored future projections. Economists warned state officials the Connecticut economy was underperforming and business leaders warned us other states were far more responsible with their fiscal decisions.


Each year majority Democrat legislative leaders did a victory lap after passing a budget with no minority Republican support. I objected because none of these budgets were given proper public hearings. The budget bill often showed up on my desk two hours before Senate debate and voting began. Six-hundred pages describing over $20 billion in taxpayer spending that I must study and consider in two hours. A totally bizarre process!


Following two of the largest tax increases in state history we find the state budget over a billion dollars in the red this year. Expert projections show our next biennium budget deficit far exceeds four billion dollars.


Today Senate and House Republicans introduced a long term plan with meaningful structural budgetary changes. These tough decisions impact all of state government because we can't ignore the fiscal tsunami facing us next year.


Republican Budget Proposal details:
http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/2016/04/pathway-sustainability/

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Nasty Political Wedge in Connecticut


Tonight in the Judiciary Committee we are debating a hodgepodge bill. Legislation that addresses victims of human sex trafficking and has nearly unanimous support of committee members has been hijacked by majority Democrats to make a political statement using a big wedge.

Why? Politics at its worst.

Later tonight the Judiciary Committee is debating HB5054 – An Act Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence from Governor Malloy. All of the language in this bill was dumped into HB5623 – An Act Concerning Violence Against Women and Victims of Human Trafficking. So we get to debate the same bill twice – all so majority Democrats can claim Republicans don’t respect women.

That’s politics at its worst.

Here’s the real story – Republicans on the Judiciary Committee oppose the temporary restraining order process proposed by Democrats. Why? The proposal has a dangerous lack of due process.

Connecticut currently has an effective process to remove firearms from a potential domestic violence perpetrator. A risk warrant process protects due process, requires an investigation and a hearing before a judge. The risk warrant is an effective way to protect victims of domestic violence. The proposed temporary restraining order process fails to protect due process.

So good legislation addressing victims of human sex trafficking gets a no vote because flawed legislation gets tacked on and voted on twice.

Hodgepodge. Politics at its worst!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Will the Transportation Lockbox Be Broken Open?


A transportation lockbox? Sounds like a good idea. Republicans at the Connecticut State Capitol have proposed this idea for many years without success. Now seems the time for a bit of common sense.


A resolution before the State Senate today requires voters to approve a constitutional amendment for the transportation lockbox on Election Day 2016. I predict it will meet overwhelming approval of Connecticut voters.


Here’s the problem – in 1992 over 80% of voters approved a constitutional spending cap but the Connecticut General Assembly has failed to fully implement the cap. Twenty-three years after voters changed the State Constitution legislators have not delivered a solid spending cap they demanded.


Will the new transportation lockbox be broken open by the same inaction of the Connecticut Legislature? Why do we make promises to voters and promptly drop the ball when it comes time to deliver on those promises?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Connecticut Senate's Nuclear Explosion


Connecticut Senate Democrats hit the nuclear option in the State Senate tonight when they stopped Republican debate on their train wreck state budget. This is the worst of politics in Connecticut.

The State Senate did not begin debate on the budget document until after 5:30 pm. The second largest tax increase in the history of Connecticut and debate limited to less than six hours.

Why? The deadline for the Connecticut General Assembly to complete business in the 2015 legislative session is Midnight. Imagine that? Hold the budget to the last six hours of a legislative session that began on January 7th. Five months to get the work done and Senate Republicans were given six hours to debate spending $40 billion.

Vote Republican, Connecticut voters!