Ryan Tim Wallingford 180x225

Tim Ryan

Economic Development Specialist, Wallingford EDC.

By Tim Ryan

Economic Development Specialist, Wallingford EDC.

WALLINGFORD: Let’s be real. When any of us as consumers or business people have to interact with a governmental agency, our expectations for courteous, timely, and effective service don’t likely rank high on the customer satisfaction meter. And frankly, we deserve to have a reasonable expectation of a good experience. As municipal employees we work for the taxpayers…we work for the mutual benefit of our communities. Well, In Wallingford we’re driven to provide a good experience when you engage our Economic Development office. And, it’s certainly not breaking news that successful businesses are a critical component to a community’s fiscal well-being and that a good customer experience leads to a good reputation which leads to an increase in the number of local businesses. Ah…fundamentals!

We’re confident that if you were to ask: Innovative Engineering Services (IES) who purchased a new building and added over 40 new jobs; or Davenport Associates who built a new office warehouse facility; or Edible Arrangements who expanded their world headquarters; or GKN Aerospace who are fitting up their new facility adding over 80 new jobs; or Harte Infiniti whose new auto dealership added over 35 new jobs; or Hobson Motzer who purchased and fit up a new facility adding over 50 new jobs,  what their experience was in dealing with our Economic Development office we’re confident their comments would be positive. Now that’s not to say there weren’t wrinkles that needed to be ironed out as part of the process…there always seem to be…but we worked through them and all of these companies have brought new economic growth to Wallingford.

DeLong 771x591

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Executive Director Joe DeLong

[Photo: KEITH M. PHANEUF]

By Keith M. Phaneuf Ctmirror.org

NEW HAVEN: One of the leading municipal advocates says the House Democrats’ plan to boost the sales tax to aid cities and towns is flawed.

And Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Executive Director Joe DeLong also says he believes municipal leaders — who pitched a sales tax hike as part of their own local assistance plan back in January — would urge legislators to vote against the House Democratic option.

 Concessions announcement

Union representatives at a press conference announcing the ratification of a concessions agreement with the state.

Photo: Mark Pazniokas  ctmirror.org

 

By, Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas  ctmirror.org

HARTFORD:  Unionized state employees have voted overwhelmingly to ratify the concession deal negotiated by the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, shifting the focus to a closely divided General Assembly, where Republicans say they will attempt to reject an agreement worth an estimated $1.57 billion over two years.

The State Employees Bargain Agent Coalition announced late Tuesday morning that more than 80 percent of the votes cast were in favor of accepting concessions that will freeze wages and increase contributions for health and pensions.

Union leaders reported vote tallies late Monday to the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and were scheduled to announce the results at 11 a.m. Representatives of the coalition declined comment.

Bargaining units representing state police troopers and assistant attorneys general did not vote on the wage concessions.

Wage agreements are decided on a unit-by-unit basis. Those that agreed to the three-year pay freeze and three furlough days per worker the governor sought would be exempted from layoffs for the next four years.

Concessions involving health coverage, pensions and other benefits are decided collectively by the 16-union labor coalition, and the changes would affect all of the roughly 46,000 unionized state employees — if the deal is ratified by the legislature.

The agreement would double pension contributions for most workers, create a hybrid pension/defined-contribution plan for future employees, increase health care co-payments and premiums and require active workers to contribute more toward their retirement health care benefits. In return, the contract guaranteeing these benefits would be extended for five years, pushing its expiration date from June 30, 2022, to mid-2027.

The House and Senate Republican leaders have criticized the extension, noting that even with the concessions, state government still would not save enough annually to cover the full cost of all retirement benefits promised to present-day workers — leaving some expenses to be covered by future taxpayers.

Wage concessions were expected to provide nearly half of the $701 million in savings the full concessions plan reportedly was worth this fiscal year, and 42 percent of the $869 million total in 2018-19.

Building support for concessions ‘was not easy’

“This was not easy,” Salvatore Luciano, executive director of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the largest state employee union — said of the near-unanimous vote. “We hoped if we explained it, everyone would pass it.”

All 33 of the bargaining units that cast ballots on wage-related concessions endorsed the deal. Units representing state police and assistant attorneys general did not vote on wage givebacks.

Fifteen of the 16 parent unions within the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition endorsed the benefits-related concessions.

The sixteenth, the Connecticut State Police Union, belongs to SEBAC but currently is not a dues-paying member in good standing, so its ballots on benefits concessions were not counted.

Lori J. Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said it should come as no surprise that workers, who also granted wage and benefit concessions in 2009 and in 2011, did so again.

“These are people who provide services to the state, but they also are taxpayers,” she said. “Employees were presented with a problem and asked to chip in — again — and help to fix it, and they did.”

Both Pelletier and Luciano cautioned, though, that the overwhelming vote for concessions — conducted over the past two weeks — should not be viewed as a sign that labor is pleased with all policies at the state Capitol.

Unions’ calls for a more progressive income tax largely have been rebuffed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and most legislators this year.

Labor leaders also expressed frustration over the past year at approximately $80 million in state grants, loans and tax incentives provided to two Fairfield County hedge funds.

And some union officials said workers were dismayed when the legislature failed to cancel raises for state judges on July 1.

“Some of the people we talked to were disappointed” by these decisions, Luciano said.

The concessions vote does not reflect union approval of these policy choices, Pelletier said. “I don’t think one thing has anything to do with the other,” she said.

 

aersimowicz and ritter
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, left, and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter keeping sales tax increase on the table. 

Sales Tax Hike Remains In Play As CT Budget Talks Drag On

By Keith Phaneuf  ctmirror.com

Hartford: As legislators struggle to find enough spending cuts to offset a major projected deficit, House Democrats continue to talk about increasing one of the state’s two major taxes — the sales levy.

But while House Democratic leaders acknowledged Thursday that hiking the sales tax rate to 6.99 percent was discussed in a closed-door meeting of caucus members, they also said this would only be considered to mitigate deep and painful cuts proposed for municipal aid.

alexionnBy Mitchell Young

Former Democratic Governor Ella Grasso famously made a home cooked meal for Miles Laboratories, [Bayer Pharmaceuticals] executives to woo them to West Haven.

Times and the people of Connecticut have changed.

Bayer would eventually leave, and a $60 million incentive package proposal by the Rell Administration was not enough to change their consolidation plans after a merger.

Lieberman Joe March 2012 336x224By Ana Radelat ctmirror.com

Trump Picks Lieberman Associate Kasowitz As Personal Lawyer In Russia Probe

Washington – President Donald Trump’s decision to hire attorney Marc Kasowitz to serve as his private lawyer during federal and congressional Russia probes has dimmed former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s chances of becoming the next FBI chief.

Kasowitz, a New York attorney who has represented Trump in legal matters before, is the senior partner in the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm that hired Lieberman after he retired from the Senate in 2013. Fox Business and ABC were the first to report Kasowitz’s hiring on Tuesday afternoon.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senate Democrats, who are opposed to having Lieberman replace ousted FBI director James Comey, had already grumbled about the connection between Lieberman, Kasowitz and Trump.

Kasowitz’s representation of Trump during the Russia probe would be likely to pose a conflict of interest if Lieberman were head of the FBI.

Trump last week said Lieberman was a front-runner for the FBI job. But that was before Senate Democrats made clear they would oppose the nomination, which has also been rejected by American civil liberties groups.

Trump’s comments about Lieberman also were made before his decision to hire an outside counsel.

News that Kasowitz was chosen to represent the president during investigations into links between Moscow and Trump associates by special counsel Robert Mueller and four congressional committees came after former CIA Director John Brennan testified about those links Tuesday.

Brennan said he became concerned last year that the Russian government was trying to influence members of the Trump campaign to act, perhaps unwittingly, on Moscow’s behalf.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,”  Brennan told members of the House Intelligence Committee.