(cross-posted from The Courant and Wait, What?)
Although still on a “self-assigned” break from writing while I contemplate life and deal with some things, I felt strongly that the issue of the longevity bonuses needed to be discussed.
Today’s Hartford Courant carries a commentary piece that I wrote concerning the fact that 3,100 political appointees and non-unionized state mangers will be getting significant longevity bonuses this week while 30,000 unionized rank and file state employees will go without as a result of their acceptance of the Malloy/SEBAC Agreement.
The decision by Governor Malloy and the Democratic Legislature to reward and protect the state’s elite managers and appointees while, at the same time, taking away from most state employees is a stunning example of how off track our political leadership has become.
Since Dan Malloy became Governor we’ve seen public debates about whether the wealthiest in Connecticut should or shouldn’t be asked to pay their fair share in taxes, whether it was or was not appropriate to make the deepest budget cuts in our state’s history to our public colleges and universities and whether we should inhumanly eliminate heating assistance for tens of thousands of our fellow citizens because the federal government's reckless and mean-spirited decision to reduce their support for heating assistance programs.
In my opinion, our Democratic elected officials failed to take the appropriate position in each of these cases, but at least there was an open and honest public debate prior to their action.
Now, as the economy shows no sign of recovery and these lucky few cash their second major longevity check of the year, it is particularly offensive that no such public discussion took place prior to the decision to grant longevity payments to those high end state employees.
The mystery only grows deeper when it becomes clear that most legislators may not have even understood what they were voting on when they passed that budget and SEBAC implementation bill into law in the early hours of July 1, 2011.
The Governor has repeatedly said he wanted the legislature to take action to stop or end longevity payments and yet the language to do exactly that was quietly switched and removed that night and replaced with language that undid the long standing tradition of treating union and non-union state employees alike when it comes to longevity bonuses.
This action leaves us wondering which Democrat officials were driven by unbelievable arrogance and which simply displayed astonishing ignorance.
The tens of thousands who worked so hard to elect Democrats in 2010, not to mention the 30,000 unionized state employees who lives have been impacted by this government maneuver deserve to know the truth.
Please take a moment to read my Courant commentary piece and join me in demanding that our elected officials come clean on this injustice.
See Courant piece below or at http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-pelto-bonus-1016-20111016,0,3046723.story
Mystery Surrounds $6 Million Bonus Payments
By Jonathan Pelto, The Hartford
Courant, October 16, 2011
This month about 3,100 political appointees and state managers are getting longevity bonuses even though 30,000 rank and file unionized employees will not get theirs. This glaring inequity is the result of some deft behind the scenes maneuvering that changed the language in the bill approving the state's budget.
So, the question remains: Who was behind the decision to change the law so that managers and political appointees get another round of longevity bonuses (extra payments given to employees with more than 10 years of service, regardless of their performance) while thousands of other employees forgo it in the name of austerity?
As has been the case in the past, the initial budget adopted by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last June included specific language that required that the provisions of any concession package between the state and its employee unions also apply to the state's non-unionized workers.
Three weeks later, however, during the July special session, the Democratically controlled legislature voted for a provision that removed the language about equal treatment for non-unionized state employees.
Instead, new wording was inserted in the measure that will provide these state mangers and political appointees with about $6 million dollars in longevity bonuses this month. Some of the most senior employees will get a bonus in excess of $6,500 while the average recipient will get just over $2,080.
With all the attention that was focused on cutting and balancing the state's budget this year, it's astonishing that seemingly no one in the legislature or the governor's office was aware of a language change.
Further, how is it they apparently are unable to say who rewrote the bill they spent months creating. Connecticut media outlets are reporting that legislative leaders, as well as rank and file legislators, claim that they did not know that the legislation they adopted made this extraordinary change.
For example when State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, learned that the bill whe had voted for would grant non-unionized workers longevity payments, she reportedly said, "Oh my God, it's outrageous." Prague is one of labor's strongest advocates and co-chairwoman of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.
Meanwhile, a grievance was filed earlier this month by union members who accepted a two-year freeze on longevity payments with what they thought was the understanding that managers would take equivalent cuts under Gov. Malloy's budget. The unions maintain that the managers should also forgo their bonuses. Although it is curious that the unions failed to voice any opposition to the legislative change when it was proposed, adopted and signed into law. Regardless, members of the state police and the prison supervisors unions, both of which rejected the wage and benefits deal offered by Gov. Malloy, will get full longevity payments.
All this deepens the question as to why Democratic Gov. Malloy — the self described champion of "shared sacrifice" — would sign into law a provision that withholds longevity payments from most rank and file state employees while giving them to the state's elite employees remains a mystery.
Although Democratic leaders remain mum about the rationale behind their decision, what is clear is that some of the individuals most closely associated with this policy change will personally benefit.
Three members of Gov. Malloy's personal staff will now be receiving longevity bonuses including Michael Christ one of his two top legislative liaisons, who once served as a member and leader in the House of Representatives.
Two of the top five officials in Malloy's Office of Policy and Management will also be getting these bonuses including Mark Ojakian the deputy secretary, who served as the governor's chief negotiator during the recent union concession discussions.
Kevin Graff, Senate President Donald William's chief of staff, and Laura Jordan, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan's top legal advisor, will also be getting the bonuses.
Even one of the state's two legislative commissioners, William Hamzy, the former Republican state legislator will now be getting a longevity bonus thanks to this latest change.
Faced with the major tax increases and record spending cuts made in the name of balancing the budget, the public deserves an answer to the question: Who was really orchestrating this behind the scenes effort to provide bonuses to this politically important group of state employees?
Link to Courant Piece: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-pelto-bonus-1016-20111016,0,3046723.story