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Conn. State Police facing layoffs due to budget crisis

HARTFORD -- The head of the Connecticut State Police Union said five state troopers could be receiving pink slips by as early as next week.

The union agreement states there must be a six-week notice so those troopers can be taken off the state payroll. The notice comes as state leaders try to take immediate action to curb a nearly $400 million deficit in the current fiscal year. Over the next two years, the state is facing a deficit of more than $4 billion.

The Connecticut State Police Union has been working with state auditors to try and figure out ways to mitigate spending and save those five jobs. Union leadership said the potential layoffs come at a time when the ranks are already thin and, if enacted, could endanger public safety.

Union President, Andrew Matthews said five may be a small number, but it can rack up significant overtime and put community members’ lives in danger if something were to happen.

“We are 252 troops fewer than we were from that point. It’s dangerous for our troopers and the public. It affects overtime. It doesn’t make sense to lay off state troopers,” said Matthews.

He said a similar incident happened in 2011 where the state troopers that were laid off ended up coming back to work because it cost taxpayers too much money paying for overtime.

Trooper Rob Garbalosa has been with Troop H for two years and he said rarely is there a day where it is quiet.

“We’re constantly going to calls – motor vehicle accidents, disabled motor vehicles, debris in the roadway,” said Garbalosa.

State Representative Kevin Skulczyck said he represents districts that rely heavily on state troopers because they do not have a residential police agency.

“You get a call in Sterling, it could take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for a trooper to respond. If we take troopers off the road, if we reduce that amount of troopers out there, we could see that 20 turn into 30, if not more,” said Skulczyck.

The State Police Union came up with 12 alternatives that can help save money.

One of them is to no longer have temporary retired workers. Another is to have the state collect the infraction revenues despite it being written by a state trooper and a third is to assign troopers to their patrols straight from homes, reducing the amount of gas and mileage.

Matthews added, “Right now, we have troopers calling us repeatedly worrying whether they’re going to be laid off or whether they’re going to be able to pay their mortgage or feed their family.”

Trooper Garbalosa said he loves what he does because it is not just to keep everyone safe, but it is to make a difference in someone’s day.

“Some of our interactions are good and bad, but if I can go out there and I can change somebody’s life or at least help influence it, that’s a good day in my book,” added Garbalosa.

Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to address the potential for layoffs at a Friday morning press conference at the Capitol.