HARTFORD — After a tie vote in the Connecticut Senate, Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman broke the tie and approved a state employee labor concessions package that's needed to help save $1.5 billion over two years.
Monday's 18 to 18 party line vote comes a week after the House of Representatives approved the deal 78-72.
Unionized state employees gathered outside the Senate chamber, hoping to persuade lawmakers to approve the agreement, which is seen by Democrats as key to finally passing a new two-year budget.
“Today, Democrats in the Senate voted for significant contractual concessions and systemic reforms to our state employee labor agreements,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “The SEBAC agreement is the most critical single piece of the budget equation, and today Democrats in the Senate wiped out 30% - more than $1.5 billion - of the projected biennial deficit.
Republicans and some Democrats expressed concerns about whether the labor agreement reached between Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and union leaders saves enough money. They worry it includes a four-year no-layoff clause and locks in pension and health benefits until 2027.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin/Southington) and Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said in a statement that the vote was a key step toward the legislature adopting a balanced state budget for the 2018-19 fiscal years.
“By following the lead of last week’s House approval, today’s Senate vote moves the state a big step closer to a sustainable budget for the next two years and beyond,” Speaker Aresimowicz said. “This was a critical piece of the puzzle necessary to bringing funding certainty to our municipalities, our non-profits that serve our most vulnerable residents, and our business community.”
House Majority Leader Ritter said, “Today‘s vote, combined with the work we have done over the past several months, increases our odds for a successful budget vote in the coming weeks. This is a big step forward.”
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) released a statement, “Once again, Connecticut Democrats have put our state on the wrong path. Accepting this deal will hamstring our state for the next 10 years and leave us with no ability to streamline government in challenging financial times. Lawmakers did the same thing in 2011 and clearly never learned their lesson."
Representatives from SEBAC said, “The passage of the SEBAC agreement secures $1.5 billion in savings in the biennium and $24 billion over the next two decades while protecting vital public services, that all Connecticut residents depend on. We urge the Senate to build on today’s momentum to develop a budget that serves the interest of all of Connecticut’s residents.
Today’s vote is a clear rejection of the right-wing, out of state money that sought to influence the direction of our state. "