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The Painful Process of Layoffs Begins

The sad, painful process of laying off thousands of state workers began yesterday, as a result of state tax revenues coming in “lower than expected.”

Amid the human cost — both to those who will be losing jobs, and those depending on the services that some of these laid-off state employees provide — there was one particularly galling note. In every news account, state employee union leaders denounced the layoffs in quotes bristling with righteous indignation.

That’s remarkable, given that layoffs have become immediately necessary because of their own refusal even to discuss reforms to their incredibly generous compensation packages (a Yankee Institute study found state employees earn, on average, between 25% and 46% more than private sector workers with the same skills and work experience). But rather than working to figure out how to bring their own pay and benefits into balance, union leaders instead opted for layoffs — for the least senior, most vulnerable public employees in their ranks.

State government unions keep insisting that Connecticut’s problems could be solved, if only the state were willing to impose yet another round of tax increases on “the rich” (that’s right, all Connecticut needs is “more cowbell”). What they’re overlooking is that yet a third round of tax increases will only result in further outmigration of affluent state residents — a phenomenon that will result in ever more “tax shortfalls” of the kind Connecticut is currently experiencing. Class warfare rhetoric may feel satisfying in the moment, but it will end poorly — not for “the rich,” who will simply move elsewhere, but for those who depend on the services that their taxes make possible — as recent events in New Jersey demonstrate.

All Connecticut’s residents are in this budget mess together. It’s time for state employee union leaders to join the residents they serve in a serious conversation”: Let’s work together to create a fair, balanced and sustainable compensation package that will lighten taxpayers’ burdens while offering state employees confidence that they won’t ever have to face the unthinkable — an insolvent state that becomes completely incapable of keeping the promises it has made to its workers.

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Carol Platt Liebau

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