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Sat July 2, 2011
Layoffs Loom After Conn. Workers' 'No' Vote
JEFF COHEN: And I'm Jeff Cohen in Hartford, where the budget season began with what seemed like a safe bet. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy said he and labor leaders would find a way to save $2 billion over two years, and the Democratic legislature said okay. Eventually, the governor and the state's unions came to an agreement that scaled back some benefits and included a four-year pledge of no layoffs.
But the state's 45,000 workers pretty much killed the deal. A majority approved it, but that wasn't enough to satisfy the union's complicated voting rules. It's not the outcome people at the state capitol expected. Larry Cafero is the Republican minority leader in the House.
Representative LARRY CAFERO: We were told from the very beginning, by a Democratic governor - the first Democratic governor of this state in 20 years - trust me, I know these guys. I'm going to do it differently. I know how to speak with them. I know how to negotiate with them. I know what I'm doing. He failed.
COHEN: So on Thursday, the last day of the fiscal year, Malloy called legislators into special session and asked them, again, to trust him. He wanted the authority to lay off more than 6,000 people to balance his budget and he got it. Still, this was an unexpected outcome. Matt O'Connor is a spokesman for the umbrella organization that represents Connecticut's 15 public employee unions.
MATT O'CONNOR: I think it did look easy from the outside. Again, we had a governor that the members of our unions had gone out and worked hard to see elected, and he won by a very small margin. Some would say that union members were key to his election victory. So you would think, if you were observing it from outside, we'd come up with something and probably fairly quick.
COHEN: But as the unions found out, it wasn't that easy. And Governor Malloy said they left him with no choice.
GOVERNOR: I think there's an appreciation that the budget needs to be balanced, and I anticipate that it will. I said we would balance it one way or the other, and I'm going to.
COHEN: Some state union leaders say they're still hoping that a deal can be reached and layoffs can be avoided. But if that doesn't happen, employees across Connecticut - from prison guards to social service workers to even three people in the governor's office - may soon be out of work. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Cohen in Hartford.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.