Fasano Calls Malloy Pay Raises Egregious [Courant]

December 26, 2014

Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — At 4:32 p.m. on the day before Christmas Eve, the Malloy administration announced pay raises ranging from 3 percent to 12 percent for about 200 political appointees — with the largest going to Ben Barnes, the governor’s budget director: 12 percent, a $23,000 boost from $187,000 to $210,000, effective Friday.

The pay hikes — for Malloy’s agency commissioners, deputy commissioners and other appointed officials, including executive assistants — come as the state faces projected deficits of about $1 billion for each of the next two fiscal years. The annual cost of the raises is $1.4 million, Barnes said.

Barnes, reached by phone after the announcement was emailed at the close of state government business Tuesday, said it wasn’t released as darkness descended in hopes that reporters might be taking a long winter’s nap and the administration could avoid heavy news coverage of the pay raises.

Barnes said the order for the raises was signed late in the afternoon by him, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Administrative Services Commissioner Donald DeFronzo, adding that “we decided to send it out to the press” immediately afterward because it will take effect with the pay period that begins Friday. “We think it is of public interest we should not hide what we’re doing.”

But the incoming Senate Republican leader, Len Fasano, had as much trouble accepting that explanation as if the administration was telling him to believe in Santa Claus.

“I think it’s disingenuous to the public … to announce it at 4:32 on the day before Christmas Eve. They knew darn well long before that that they’d be getting it done.” Fasano, who is a lawyer, added: “In criminal law, flight is evidence of guilt; in politics, doing an announcement like this in the evening before a long holiday weekend is evidence of guilt.”

Fasano also called it “egregious” to grant the raises “as we’re looking at a multibillion-dollar deficit. … I think it’s crazy and I think it’s unnecessary,” adding that he thinks the administration is out of touch with members of the public, many of whom have been struggling financially.

Barnes said in the press release that most of the appointees — whose annual pay ranges from below $50,000 up to his level, which will be more than $200,000 — haven’t had raises since Malloy’s first year in office, 2011.

“For the last four years, most appointed officials have not seen their salary change as they have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Connecticut families,” Barnes said in the statement. “Because of their hard work, we are seeing the results in many areas, such as a steadily improving economy that’s added over 75,000 jobs since 2011.

“We want that progress to continue over the next four years and need to be able to attract and retain top-notch talent so our citizens are served by the very best. To do that our salaries must remain competitive with those of other states and the private sector.

“The adjustments will go to senior gubernatorial appointees, such as agency heads, their deputies and members of the Governor’s staff. The salary changes will range between 3% and 12% depending on the number of years in state service without a salary increase. Funding for the increases was included in the state budget that took effect July 1.”

Barnes said that unionized state employees received a 3 percent increase in July, and also receive annual pay increments as provided in their collective bargaining contracts. Managerial civil-service employees received salary increases of 3 percent in August, and in January will receive merit increases under the state’s Performance Assessment and Recognition System (PARS), Barnes said.

“I would suggest that in challenging economic times the need for senior management to be functioning at a high level, and our ability to attract and retain the best possible people to run state agencies, is at its greatest,” Barnes said on the phone. “We rely not only on the rank and file employees’ efforts, but also creativity and initiative of all our managers and our senior managers. We think that it’s only fair that we acknowledge their hard work.”

He said the cost of the raises is relatively small “compared to the benefit we get from the great leadership we’ve gotten from our commissioners and deputy commissioners and senior appointed officials.”