Worsening state budget deficit means more state employee layoffs

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HARTFORD--With the ballooning state budget and no relief in sight, lawmakers are looking for drastic measures to reduce our deficit.

Gov. Dan Malloy told FOX 61 on Wednesday that part of reducing costs will include laying off some state employees, though he does not yet know how many will lose their jobs.

Malloy originally committed to reducing the workforce by about 500 to 600 by July 1--the start of the 2017 fiscal year--many of which will be eliminated by not filling currently open positions. However, on Wednesday Malloy said that number will no longer be enough due to the steadily worsening budget situation. He did not provide an updated number, citing a need to see how many chose to retire.

"This is a big month for retirement, a lot of folks, for various reasons make their retirements effective in April," he said. "I don't want to mislead anyone. I suspect some number of layoffs are going to be required. I can't give you an exact number, but we're talking about a large number of positions that will be affected by the natural ebb and flow. Quite frankly, I think we're going to see more retirements before April 1 than we normally see."

On Tuesday, the governor sent a letter to members of the state Legislature to submit ideas by March 14 on how to dig us out of the fiscal crisis, and lawmakers will meet Monday to discuss the ideas. The goal is to reduce the budget deficit and change our patter of spending more than we can afford.

The hole for the 2016 fiscal year has grown to $266 million, and by the time we start the new fiscal year on July 1 of this year we'll be facing a more-than $900 million shortfall.

Budget cuts came up during Gov. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman's town hall forum, Wednesday, in Hartford.

A crowded room of state workers signed up for a chance to speak at the UConn School of Law, hoping to ask Malloy questions on how they will be impacted in the future.

A Department of Transportation Engineer, Travis Woodward, offered out a solution, suggesting the governor look at the resources the state has, rather than rely on cuts.

"My goal was to tell the governor how much he can save by in sourcing work back in house," Woodward said. "Currently the state wastes 90-million dollars a year by outsourcing engineering work to consultants many of them who are business based outside of Connecticut."

At the meeting, the governor's principals to improve our fiscal future, were on display, which include: limit spending to available resources by reforming current services, tackle our long-term pension obligations, define and prioritize core government services, hold state agencies accountable for results and use a transparent, bipartisan process.

A teacher with Department of Corrections, Roland Bishop, brought up concerns with principal number four, holding state agencies accountable for results.

For example, cutting back on a program like Second Chance Society, worries Bishop that the progress already made to cut back on crime rates will be impacted.

"I think it’s a core service of government, it should be funded, just like juvenile justice," he said. "Those are investments in public safety and there could be a consequence."

While different topics were discussed, the presence of state employees circled back to troubles with future layoffs.

"Government serves people and you can only serve people with people," Bishop said.

Wednesday marks the fourth stop in a series of town hall forums.

For a chance to come face to face with the governor, you can attend one of the town hall meetings .