GOP Seeks Cut In Legislators’ Salaries; Malloy Calls Republican Plan “Honest Effort”

March 16, 2016

Gov. Malloy says he “would sign it” if Republican budget fixed was passed by the legislature

Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — Calling for their own pay to be cut 10 percent, Republican legislators offered a plan Tuesday to close this year’s projected budget gap and make inroads into next year’s deficit.

They also proposed about $200 million in other reductions, including for nursing homes and education, and suggested transferring about $22 million in surpluses from 13 accounts into the general fund to balance the $20 billion annual state budget.

The GOP plan would cut more than $25 million from public colleges and universities, $12.9 million from the state’s 24 public charter schools and $1.825 million from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. But it would restore the full $140 million in payments to more than 25 hospitals, which are battling the Democratic governor over the money.

Citing the fiscal crisis, Gov. Dannel B. Malloy has withheld the payments, spurring hospital officials to complain to their legislators.
Republicans also would block Malloy’s $51 million in proposed cuts to nonprofit providers that perform services for the state, such as operating group homes.

Cutting their own salaries would save the state nearly $600,000 in the remainder of the current fiscal year. Lawmakers, who have not received a raise since January 2001, are technically part-time workers with an annual base salary of $28,000. They earn additional money for leadership positions; top leaders, like the House speaker, earn more than $45,000 per year. Republicans also called for reducing their personal expenses, such as mileage, and a three-month suspension in their franking’ privilege, which allows them to send brochures to constituents at state expense.
In a move directed at Malloy, the Republicans called on the Democratic Governors Association to reimburse the state for the governor’s security costs. Malloy is chairman of the association, whose chief goal is to elect Democratic governors in November. When he travels to Democratic functions – the most recent being the association’s winter conference in Puerto Rico and a speech Saturday in New Mexico — the state pays for state troopers to travel with him.

Malloy is known for a busy travel schedule, including town hall meetings around the state. During his first 15 months in office, troopers earned nearly $700,000 in overtime, due partly to their presence at evening citizens forums. Malloy has already traveled out of state more than his two predecessors – Republicans John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell.

Although Malloy has rejected many Republican budget proposals, this one was different.

“This is an honest effort,” said Devon Puglia, Malloy’s spokesman. “If this plan or one like it were negotiated and passed by the General Assembly, the governor would sign it.”

Puglia said, “We do not agree in the specific with every line item reduction, specifically those to the Children’s Medical Center, school reform and higher education, and cuts to property tax relief. At the same time, our new economic reality demands that we all make compromises.”
Puglia said Malloy will continue to make budget cuts that are within his authority, but he also called for quick legislative action. “As the governor has said, if we act quickly to close the current year deficit, these actions need not include cuts to hospital supplemental payments,” Puglia said. “If we cannot act quickly, all options will need to be put back on the table.”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Hamden Democrat, called the Republican plan “a comprehensive proposal” that could be combined with Democratic ideas to be outlined this week.

The Republican plan also reduces about 250 accounts by 15 percent, which would save nearly $83 million. It seeks to block layoffs for the current fiscal year by requiring two unpaid furlough days by thousands of state employees before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The plan would not stop layoffs in the next fiscal year unless other savings could be found.

House Republican leader Themis Klarides said the state’s continuing budget problems have prompted lawmakers to return again and again to the Capitol to close a budget gap that is projected as high as $266 million in the current year and nearly $900 million next year.
“I feel like we just changed the date and we changed the room, but here we are again,” Klarides said. “This is a difficult time. … It’s a difficult plan. People aren’t going to like everything about it.”

Other details in the Republican proposal include:

  • Cutting the budgets for both parties’ legislative caucuses, saving a total of $400,000, and reducing legislators’ unvouchered expenses by 10 percent.
  • For next year, union givebacks in pensions and health benefits that would need to be negotiated with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition. These would include requiring workers, except hazardous duty’ employees, to contribute 4 percent of their salaries into the pension fund. That would save the state nearly $75 million next year, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office.
  • Increasing prescription drug co-pays for current employees and retirees which, lawmakers say, could save $11 million. An exception would be for diabetes drugs, for which there is currently no co-pay; the plan would keep it that way. A 90-day supply of generic maintenance drugs, such as those to treat common conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, would remain at $5. But co-pays on many other drugs would increase by $5 to $10 per prescription.