Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why The Budget Failed

Plan A failed because neither the Malloy administration nor SEBAC negotiators were able to sell their product to the union rank and file.

Lord knows they tried. But in the end, it was the health package that sunk the final vote. Almost half of the union rank and file voted against Plan A, considered by union negotiators, Malloy administration budget salesmen and a large chunk of Connecticut’s commentariat to be a plan irresistible to rational heads in much of the state.

Moises Padilla, vice president of AFSCME Local 387 at the Cheshire correctional complex, thought early on that Plan A was doomed and made attempts to contact shakers and movers within the Malloy administration to warn them of the impending crack-up, but his calls were not returned by Roy Occhiogrosso, Mr. Malloy’s major-domo.

Following the rank and file vote, which soundly rejected Plan A, union negotiators regrouped and decided the vote would not be formalized for thirty days, later pushing the thirty days out to infinity, a stratagem that can only strike rank and file members of the unions as a means of discounting their vote.

The sticking point, according to Mr. Padilla, is the health care package. Many rank and file members regard changes make by the Malloy administration as an intrusive nose of a universal health care camel, a “social experiment” inserted into a collective bargaining health care plan “in the hopes that it would eventually lead to universal health care, otherwise known as Obamacare or SustiNet, in our state."

“Remove the enhanced health care plan out of this agreement, and it will be ratified. It's as simple as that. I never saw so much anger generated as this enhanced health care agreement,” said Mr. Padilla, a union leader talking truth to power who likely will not be invited to high tea when Mr. Malloy and Mr. Occhiogrosso and Mr. Barnes and other architects of Plan A gather together, along with self anointed union leaders, to celebrate what may be a successful attempt to overthrow a rank and file union vote.

Of course, Mr. Occhigrosso, once a union operative himself, would not put it in such stark terms. Mr. Occhiogrosso was hired in the late 90’s as a union organizer by an AFLCIO group, AFT-Rocky Hill. The governor, Mr. Occhigrosso responded, is working within a tight time frame, and he must – really, MUST – deal with the projected $700 million deficit in the state's unbalanced budget. A budget is unbalanced when expenditures do not equal receipts. Connecticut’s tax receipts and expenditures have been out of balance ever since the budget was approved by the Democrat dominated General Assembly weeks ago. Perhaps someone should share Mr. Occhiogrosso’s anxiety with Superior Court Judge James Graham, who recently expressed doubts in oral argument that he could rule on a suit claiming the budget was unconstitutionally out of balance because the state legislature had neglected to define the term “expenditure.”

"All I would say,” Mr. Occhiogrosso said in response to Mr. Padilla, “is the governor has to proceed as if there is no agreement because, right now, there isn't. If it turns out that SEBAC, through its own internal process, can alter that, it's certainly something the governor would keep an open mind about. But today is June 27. … It's his responsibility to make sure a balanced budget is in place by Thursday."

Mr. Occhiogrosso pointed out that there was “a widow of time,” though the window is open but a sliver, for unions to resolve the situation. In non-politicalese, resolving the situation would mean negating the union vote to reject Plan A, camel objections and all.

Mr. Padilla’s beef, however, does not end with a protest that some union leaders seem a bit too anxious to throw a legitimate union vote into the sharp teeth of politicians who would benefit from the health care changes; it has been pointed out that some politicians eagerly hawking Plan A, such as Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo were co-chairs of the SustiNet board when Ms. Wyman was State Comptroller and Mr. Lembo State Healthcare Advocate.

The union leaders who now seem prepared to suspend the union vote indefinitely insist there is no connection – none at all – between changes in union benefits that would facilitate an easy transition into a SustiNet plan and Mr. Malloy's Plan A, now gurgling beneath the waves.

Mr. Padilla’s union voted against Plan A because members were suspicious of the motives of both union negotiators and reformist Malloy administrators, but other troubling aspects affected the vote as well. Mr. Padilla’s own objections to Plan A are perhaps more comprehensive than Mr. Occhiogrosso would wish.

According to one account, Mr. Padilla said in a statement that prison guards voted against the deal because of "the continued and insatiable appetite for spending; structural, institutional, programmatic or otherwise, including the perception of the ever-growing welfare state, a new state earned income tax credit, a magic bus to nowhere, an unprecedented expansion of UConn, a bloated and redundant bureaucracy, etc., by those in the legislature and the governor's office despite this so-called 'shared sacrifice,' which is being financed on our backs.''
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