Connecticut lawmakers approve 2.5% raises for state workers



(The Center Square) — Tens of thousands of Connecticut state workers could be getting a bump in their paychecks with lawmakers advancing a proposal to give them a 2.5% across-the-board pay raise.

A proposal approved by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Friday would authorize a 2.5% wage increase for an estimated 46,000 state employees that was hammered out in negotiations earlier this year by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents unionized workers.

The pay raises, which for some state employees would come in addition to regular step pay increases, will cost the state $190 million, according to the Lamont administration.

The Democratic-controlled committee’s approval came over the objection of GOP lawmakers, who argued that the state is wrestling with revenue shortfalls, and can’t afford the higher labor costs.

State Sen. Jeff Gordon, R-Woodstock, was among Republican lawmakers who voted against the raises, saying his opposition had “nothing to do” with his feelings about state workers or public sector unions.

He said Lamont administration officials haven’t provided enough information about how the pay raise will be covered.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Gordon said in remarks. “I think it behooves us to make sure that we do our due diligence. We need to make sure we get more answers.”

Meanwhile, some Democratic lawmakers criticized the pay raise proposal for lacking backstop funding to help public colleges and universities absorb the impact of higher wages.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee, peppered Lamont administration budget writers with questions about how the University of Connecticut and other taxpayer-funded schools will be able to fill the estimated $70 million gap in funding from the pay raises. He said schools have already pulled all the “levers” they have to offset cuts and cost increases.

“There is a hole that needs to be filled somehow,” he said, in remarks during Friday’s hearing. “I think that hole is going to be borne by the Legislature through an appropriated budget. I’m curious to know how we avoid that. What other levers are there to move?”

In 2022, Lamont struck a deal with labor unions on a four-year contract that authorized a 2.5% general wage increase and step hikes for the first three fiscal years. The agreement called for reopening the contract this year, which was announced in March.

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates the latest round of pay raises would cost the budget $121.2 million to give workers the 2.5% general raise on July 1 and the step increase on Jan. 1, 2025.

State workers who don’t have step classifications would receive supplemental funding equal to roughly 2% of their members’ salaries, according to the plan.

“Our state’s working families — and our economy — depend upon a strong, stable, and effective public service workforce,” the labor coalition pushing for the wage increases said in a statement. “That is only possible with fair pay, decent benefits, and respect for the voices of those on the front lines.”

The Legislature is expected to take up the proposed pay raises next week, which must be approved by the May 8 end of the legislative session.

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