With the release of Governor Dan Malloy’s proposed budget and the coming deadlines of committees in the General Assembly, this year’s legislative session is heating up. The next several months will involve some heavy lifting at the State Capitol as CSEA members work to pass important legislation and improve an imperfect biennial state budget.
The biennial state budget is not a single document or piece of legislation. In actuality, it is currently 35 different pieces of House and Senate legislation. (You can view the governor’s budget proposal on his website at governor.ct.gov or the General Assembly’s budget bills at cga. ct.gov).
The proposed budget contains no calls for layoffs or concessions from state employees, it maintains funding for education and municipalities and continues to make payments into the state pension and health care funds; however it is filled with cuts to vital programs that serve some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.
Starting on Monday, February 23, the Appropriations Committee will have a series of public hearings on the budget. Through the process of public hearings and direct lobbying of General Assembly members, CSEA members have an important opportunity to help fix this budget. Please contact your staff representative if you are interested in testifying at any upcoming public hearing or if you want to get involved in CSEA’s legislative program at the General Assembly.
As important as the budget is, it is not the only work being done this year by our state legislature. Several pieces of CSEA’s overall legislative agenda are moving forward.
CSEA’s 5 Point 2015 Legislative Agenda:
- Contractor Transparency: Require the state to put invoicing reports of consultants and contractors on transparency.ct.gov or the state contracting portal. Right now, the only way to see the actual payment invoices contractors and consultants are submitting to the state is to travel to a state office in Newington and review paper copies. This is, both, unnecessary and inefficient. This is important and timely information that should be placed immediately online. The Comptroller – who would ultimately have to implement this, while supportive of the underlying concept, has expressed some concerns about the resources needed to do this. Conversations with Kevin Lembo’s office are ongoing as we seek a compromise that provides this additional transparency to the expenditure of state funds;
- Health Claims Data Reporting: Require all municipalities to submit health care claims data to the Comptroller’s office. This proposal has been taken up by the Labor and Public Employees Committee and has the support of the Comptroller. It is now Senate Bill 913 and is waiting to be assigned a date for a public hearing;
- Paraeducator Serving as Substitutes: Protect the ability of paraeducators to serve as substitutes in the classroom. This proposal has been taken up by the Education Committee and is waiting to be reduced to writing, assigned a bill number, and given a date for a public hearing;
- Law Enforcement Indemnification: Add inspectors in the Division of Criminal Justice to the indemnification statute. This proposal has been taken up by the Judiciary Committee and is waiting to be reduced to writing, assigned a bill number, and given a date for a public hearing; and
- Union Rights: Collective bargaining rights for State Education Resource Center (SERC) employees. This proposal has been taken up by the Labor and Public Employees Committee and is waiting to be reduced to writing, assigned a bill number, and given a date for a public hearing.
Legislation CSEA will be supporting through coalition with other organizations:
- Paid Family Medical Leave: As part of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, CSEA is fighting to create a system of paid family leave in Connecticut. The concept has been approved by the Labor and Public Employees and is waiting to be reduced to writing, assigned a bill number, and given a date for public hearing;
- Tax Fairness: Through CSEA’s membership in the Better Choices coalition, fight for a fair tax system that does not force working people and retirees to make up the difference. While the governor’s proposed budget makes tweaks to the corporate tax system, it does not ask our wealthiest residents and largest corporations to pay their fair share;
- True Pooling: Along with other unions that represent municipal and Board of Education employees, work to allow municipalities to participate directly in the State Employee Health Plan. True pooling will generate massive savings for the state, boards of education, and municipalities. It must be part of the budget discussion over the next several months; and
- Low Wages Workers: Require large employers like Walmart to pay their workers a minimum of $15 an hour or pay a fee to the Connecticut General Fund. This concept has been introduced in, both, the Labor and Public Employees Committee and the Human Services Committee. Some specifics still need to be worked out, but as this bill could generate upwards of $200 million a year, it will be a very important part of the deliberations around the budget.
The experience and knowledge of frontline workers is needed now more than ever. CSEA members will be at the center of the battles in the General Assembly over the next few months to pass important pieces of legislation while crafting a budget that speaks to our highest aspirations. Given that CSEA members have offered proposals – such as ending contracting out, implementing true pooling, and creating a fair tax system – that would improve the efficiencies of providing public services while improving the state budget, that knowledge and experience is crucial. Please contact your staff representative if you are interested in testifying at any upcoming public hearing or if you want to get involved in CSEA’s legislative program at the General Assembly.