Senator’s Town Hall Meeting Draws 77 People [Danbury Patch]

March 29, 2011

Article as it appeared in the Danbury Patch on 3/28/2011

State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, looked at ease in front of a crowd of 77 people who came out Monday night to talk about Connecticut’s budget problems.

McLachlan started the two-hour meeting with a 45 minute presentation on the state’s problems, but he had no problem filling the remaining time with questions from the audience. Many stayed after to ask him further questions.

McLachlan said government spending grew 287 percent from 1987 to today, but the state’s population during that time only grew 9 percent. He said the consumer price index only rose 90 percent over that time.

“The problem we face is government has grown far too fast for the size of our state,” McLachlan said.

One reason McLachlan is holding the town meeting is because the legislature and governor are in the busy budget season over the next month creating a two-year budget for the state. The state has projected a $3 billion deficit.

Governor Dannel Malloy will be in Danbury on April 6 at Rogers Park Middle School to give his side of the budget debate.

In Connecticut, the governor proposes a budget, the legislature then considers it, and votes on it. The legislature’s budget is then returned to the governor for signing or veto. The governor is scheduled to reveal his budget this month.

Negotiators for the state have been meeting with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition of state unions, and they have reached no deals yet. On Friday, Malloy released a statement that said if the unions won’t agree to $1 billion in givebacks and concessions, his plan B options will ge “ugly and nasty.”

McLachlan said workers are being asked to give up as much as $22,000 per year, a figure that is unrealistic, McLachlan said. One man in the audience agreed with McLachlan and asked what will the state do if workers don’t make concessions.

McLachlan said, “On April 6, that would be a question for Governor Malloy.”

McLachlan stuck to the theme that Connecticut should cut state government to solve its problems.

McLachlan said the “ugly and nasty” option Malloy referred to is layoffs, and laying off a public employee takes about 18 months.

“Those savings won’t come in this year’s budget. They may come in next year’s budget,” McLachlan said.

He said the state’s best option is to reduce spending, and the audience agreed with him. He gave the audience one good example, which was switching state workers and state vendors to paperless checks. He said a state committee looking for cost savings ideas identified that as saving “tens of millions of dollars” per year. He said the problem is each state union has to renegotiate its contract to allow that change.

Another member of the audience asked how Connecticut could become more business friendly, and McLachlan said year after year issues arise in the legislature that make it harder for people to employee other people in the state. He said one example is the idea of giving part-time workers medical benefits, including summer vacation camp staff.

Year after year we turn that bill back, McLachlan said, and year after year it comes up again.

“All it will do is force these small businesses to hire fewer people,” McLachlan said.

McLachlan said people must send letters to their legislators, e-mail them, phone them, but most importantly, hand-write letters to them.

“I’ll respond to the e-mail and the form letter, but if you send me a hand-written letter, I’m picking up the phone,” McLachlan said.