Labor Responds to Gov. Lamont’s Budget Address

The Connecticut AFL-CIO, AFT Connecticut, AFSCME Council 4, and SEIU Local 1199NE made the following statements in response to Gov. Lamont’s budget address:

Salvatore Luciano, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO:

“The Governor deserves credit for respecting working people’s right to collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and establishing a paid family and medical leave program. But we can do even better for Connecticut’s working families. Organized labor is ready, willing, and able to work with the Governor and legislature to make this budget work for everyone in our state.

“We are disappointed that Gov. Lamont has broken his campaign promise to not seek further givebacks from state workers after they made concessions three times over the last decade. Our teachers, fire fighters, nurses, corrections officers, and other state workers have already made concessions worth tens of billions of dollars, and to continue to go after these public service workers is patently unfair.

“Over the years, we have heard a lot about shared sacrifice. But in this budget proposal, once again sacrifices are not shared, and the wealthy actually benefit from the Governor’s proposal. Eliminating the gift tax, reducing the estate tax, and not asking the rich to pay any additional income taxes means the wealthiest 1% reap significant savings while working people pay more in taxes.

“In order to create a growing economy, we need to invest in a high road budget that does not continue the assault on working people. Instead of cutting retirement benefits, we hope the Governor will consider finding smart ways to balance the budget. This can include legislation such as requiring large low-wage employers to reimburse the state for forcing their workers on state benefits, or eliminating ineffective business tax credits that don’t create jobs in our state.”

Jan Hochadel, President of AFT Connecticut:

“The governor’s plan to stabilize the state’s retirement fund for teachers appears to adopt the structural changes we’ve long advocated for. Smoothing out future payments will help make-up for decades of politicians failing to adequately invest in this public asset and begin to restore stability to educators’ pensions.”

“We teach our students to see the world not simply in black and white but in shades of gray. In that spirit, there are proposals in the governor’s budget package that demand our opposition and protest, too. We've already made clear we're not willing to shift more risk onto the backs of retired state employees, which threatens to pick the pockets of seniors living on fixed incomes.”

Jody Barr, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 4:

“Our union agrees with Governor Lamont that collective bargaining works for Connecticut. We fully appreciate his emphasis on avoiding an anti-worker Wisconsin Moment. That’s why state workers agreed to sacrifice an average of $17,500 per worker to resolve Connecticut’s fiscal problems. It’s why thousands of our members who work for cities, towns and boards of education have agreed to significant economic concessions in their local bargaining talks. We want the best Connecticut possible. One way we get there is to make sure everybody pays their fair share of taxes to fund state and local services, and to reduce our chronic over-reliance on property taxes. Another way is to harness the power of government to lift workers’ wages and living standards. We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to achieve those aims.”

Rob Baril, President of SEIU Local 1199NE:

“We appreciate Governor Lamont’s spirit to bring all parties to the table so we can fix Connecticut’s looming budget problems. The austerity agenda was rejected in the election and Governor Lamont was put in office thanks to the votes of working-class families. We see that working people are being asked to make sacrifices once again. But what we don’t see is a willingness to ask the greedy few to pay their fair share. For the past decade our economy has been booming for Connecticut’s wealthiest residents, while working-class families, black, brown and white, have suffered stagnating wages and declining access to education and social services. We should not balance our budget through austerity measures such as nursing home closures and underfunding of services to treat vulnerable populations such as the mentally ill and addicted.”

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