Senator Toni Boucher: Expanding Government at a time of Fiscal Crisis?

March 24, 2011

Hartford, CT – At a time when the state is facing a $6 to 7 billion dollar deficit in the next two years , and a nearly 4 billion dollar tax increase, the largest in the state’s history, some in the Legislature are trying to add a new state government agency.

SB 1106 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EARLY EDUCATION AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT was approved by the education committee. This bill would create a new state agency that would have its own commissioner and allow for private vendors to be unionized.

Senator Toni Boucher believes this would amount to an expansion of Government and add more state employees we simply can’t afford.

“At a time when we should consolidate state government and streamline state costs, here is a move to grow Government and to allow an unprecedented reach into our homes by unions,” said Senator Boucher.

SB 1106 would set a new precedent. Private vendors who contract with the state would become state employees, and pay union dues, for the purposes of negotiating their rates, including money they receive for participating in the “Care 4 Kids” program.

“Care 4 Kids” is a state subsidized program designed to make child care affordable for low to moderate income families in Connecticut by paying relatives to care for family kids.. Depending on where a family lives in the state the weekly reimbursement can be $116 per child up to $304 per child. Approximately 4,000 home-based day care providers, who must be licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, could be affected.

The private vendors targeted by this bill include care provided in a child care home and care provided by a relative and in the relative’s home. However other vendors that receive Care4 Kids state subsidies include public or private school before and after school programs which are administered by the school and municipal or town child care programs which are administered by the municipality could also become a target of future legislation should this bill become law.

By establishing these daycare providers, who receive “Care 4 Kids”, as state employees they could be subject to representation by The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for the purposes of collective bargaining. The unions would be able to bargain for state reimbursement rates, benefits, payment procedures, contract arbitration, training and professional development.

Senator Boucher believes this is an effort by unions to expand into the private sector. “This will absolutely increase costs and regulation in an effort to put money in the pockets of special interests through union dues,” said Senator Boucher. “At a time when our focus should be lowering the cost of state employees, this would do the opposite.”

Senator Boucher understands private union membership is at an all time low, but disagrees with unions who are attempting to make up ground in the public sector, by adding private child care providers to the definition of who a state employee is. Additionally, these dues would come out of the very reimbursement rates providers are looking to increase.

“Money spent on quality programs such as “Care 4 Kids” should go to child care not union dues,” said Senator Boucher. “We as a Legislature can increase reimbursement rates and fund programs without the forceful hand of a union.”

As the work this new agency is already being done by the state, Senator Boucher would like to see the legislature strengthen what is already in place at the Department of Education without further expansion of state government.

“Connecticut is facing massive deficits and its unemployment, at 9%, is higher than the national average for the first time ever. Connecticut association of CPAs has analyzed the state’s financial condition and has pronounced that it is broke. We don’t need a new agency or class of unionized state workers that would further drive up costs, especially without evidence of measurable improvements or efficiencies. The state simply can’t afford it and the taxpayers cannot foot the bill in these troubled times.. Commonsense must prevail.” -Senator Boucher.