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Lamont vetoes bill to pay jobless benefits to striking workers

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(The Center Square) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has vetoed a controversial bill that would have provided state unemployment benefits to striking public sector workers.

The proposal, an Act Establishing a Connecticut Families and Workers Account, called for spending $3 million to create a new fund to provide jobless benefits to low-wage workers on strike. It was pushed through the Democratic-controlled state legislation with little debate despite Republican opposition.

Lamont said the plan to provide assistance to low-income workers is “commendable” but cited “significant concerns” with the legislation’s wording and said it lacks “fiscal accountability and oversight.”

“Without a clear mechanism for monitoring the transfer and utilization of the funds, there is risk of inefficiency, mismanagement, and lack of transparency in their intended allocation,” the Democrat wrote in his veto message to lawmakers. “It is unclear how the comptroller will ensure that funds are used appropriately and effectively to assist low-income workers.”

Not surprisingly, labor union leaders blasted his decision, accusing the Democrat of ignoring the concerns of public sector workers.

“Gov. Lamont has failed to hear the voices of thousands of working people who urged him to stand with striking workers,” Ed Hawthorne, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “The governor had a choice — stand with corporate CEOs or stand with working people. Unfortunately, he chose corporate CEOs.”

But Lamont received praise from the conservative Yankee Institute, which had argued that paying striking workers unemployment benefits was an “absurd” example of government overreach.

“Not only is this bill wrong on process — it is bad policy, as well,” Carol Platt Liebau, the institute’s president, said in a statement. “The government should not be tipping the scales in labor negotiations between its citizens, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay striking workers.”

In his veto message, Lamont said he is open to discussions about how the state can help low-income workers but that any proposal must have clear goals and standards.

“I remain committed to working with [the] legislature to develop sound policies that ensures the effective use of public funds, maintains transparency and accountability in government operations and continues to prioritize the needs of our low-income workers and families,” he wrote.

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