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Bob Duff sells out his district – again

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Greg Ehlers was the 2016 Republican challenger to State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).

Every family who lives in Bob Duff’s district and every business operating in Fairfield County needs to be aware of what their elected State Senator just did to threaten their livelihoods this week.

The labor contract agreement that just passed and will now become law is another in a long line of sweetheart deals with unions negotiated by Gov. Malloy that has prolonged the fiscal crisis and created the poor economic climate our families and businesses suffer in every day.

It should no longer be a surprise to anyone in Connecticut that our state remains mired in a devastating fiscal crisis that has resulted from a cycle of spending money we don’t have, raising taxes to cover the differences, and then suffering the consequences of taxpayers leaving for more tax-friendly states – this cycle has been repeated for decades and has stunted economic growth in this state.

If you closely observe this economically disastrous cycle, you will notice one troubling fact about Connecticut’s government that has given wake to years of awful budgets – the basic fact that state government is just too expensive.  In particular, state employees receive benefits so luxurious, and so unprecedented, that as bureaucracy balloons and employees retire it has brought the state to the brink of insolvency.  Public sector jobs and benefits in Connecticut are unparalleled in other states and would make most private sector workers seethe to know what they pay for.

For example, did you know that some state employees pay $0 into their pensions? Or that employees can factor overtime pay into their pension calculations?  Healthcare co-pays are insidiously low. Sen. Blumenthal chose to keep his state health care plan versus what was is offered at the federal level. It’s a recipe for fiscal disaster.

If Sen. Duff were truly interested in allowing Connecticut’s economy to recover and solving our budget crisis – as he repeated throughout the 2016 campaign that he was “working hard and standing up for you” – then he should have addressed the inordinate amount of power that state employee unions wield in government.  Sen. Duff should realize that his duty as our State Senator and responsibility as Senate Majority Leader is to summon the political courage to curb their power in order to balance our budget.

Sen. Duff also needs to be aware his district contains relatively few state workers.  What he does have in his district are overworked and underpaid municipal workers – these include teachers, police officers, firefighters, and librarians.  If you are a teacher, police officer, firefighter, or librarian, you are among the losers of this union deal and of the budget crisis in general.

These invaluable jobs depend on responsibly-managed municipalities who raise revenue, most prominently, via property tax receipts.  Cities and towns also receive funding from the state in the form of municipal aid, which is really just the state returning a portion of income tax receipts that they collected from their residents.  In helping the labor deal pass, Sen. Duff decided protecting unions, state workers benefits, and Gov. Malloy was more important than making sure towns have sufficient funding to pay municipal workers.

Make no mistake about it – this union deal is a tax increase.  Although its supporters will point to the $1 billion it saves, it is hard to be cheerful when the actual budget deficit is $5.1 billion.  To claim this deal helps out is completely disingenuous.  The state is going to have to make up for that extra $4 billion somehow, which they will do by cutting off town funding (so towns will have to increase property taxes) and by raising state taxes.

I shudder to think of what this means for Norwalk parents, since Norwalk is perhaps the most underfunded school district in the state because of an unequal ECS formula.

If Bob Duff were truly interested in helping out his district, he would have stood up to Gov. Malloy and the unions and steered the State Senate to reject this horrible deal.  Then, he would get to work on a budget that actually advocates for the people who fund government rather than the people who work for government.

On that note, has anyone asked Sen. Duff where the state’s budget is after a painful month of the governor running the state through executive order? It’s really a stunning abandonment of duty.

Sen. Duff needs to look himself in the mirror and decide who he represents – state workers in Hartford or hard-working families in Norwalk and Darien.  He needs to decide if he wants to grow the bureaucracy or grow business, because he really cannot do both at this stage in the budget crisis.  Right now, he is taking his orders from union bosses and Gov. Malloy.

And, no, taking selfies at Calf Pasture and posting them on Twitter does not qualify as representing your district, Bob.

If you are reading this, I urge you to call his office at 860-240-8600 and demand he work to pass a budget that benefits taxpayers rather than special interests.

Every day that passes without a budget is another death knell for family finances and business prospects in this state and our state senator stands right in the middle of the process.

We are waiting, Bob.

Greg Ehlers

Darien

26 comments

M. Murray August 4, 2017 at 6:29 am

What everyone fails to mention is that the union had no need to make concessions as their contract was not due to export until 2022. That’s 5 years with no concessions at all. In order to obtain those concessions worth 1 billion dollars, the state had to negotiate. The unions would not just give anything back for no reason, much like the state would not give employees more benefits in the middle of a contract if the economy was booming and inflation was outpacing raises. That is how contracts work. If the state refused to negotiate and give something back in exchange for concessions, the unions would not have cooperated. This would have forced the state to either fund the entire 5 billion deficit through taxes or lay off 4-7 thousand employees to just cover half of the 1.5 billion the state saved through negotiations. You think DMV lines are long now? Like I-95 and the Merritt plowed for rush hour in the winter? Everything is a give and take.

Isabelle Hargrove August 4, 2017 at 8:06 am

The Hour editorial board endorsed Mr. Duff for re-election last year with a statement that, although he had failed thus far to bring adequate funding to Norwalk’s school, he was still best positioned to do so next.

I would like The Hour to have the courage to admit their mistake and recognize that Senator Duff continues to be ineffective. Even more disappointing, he routinely misrepresents facts to cover for his decisions and misleads people.

Unfortunately, for Norwalk and for CT at large, if Norwalkers had had the courage to not re-elect Mr. Duff, the State Senate would have shifted to a Republican majority by 1 vote and the future of our state would have been brighter. But then, how would we get free ice cream and regular traffic updates?

Notaffilated August 4, 2017 at 8:45 am

I’m all in favor of fair. The numbers that get my attention are when things are not fair. For example, should a public sector employee command 75% of their annual salary and be able to retire at 55?

I recall a town employee (not Norwalk) telling me he works from 6-10am and gets paid a full 40 hours. That affords him time to do a second job. Shhhhhhh! Don’t tell

Sono Spirit August 4, 2017 at 8:49 am

Unsustainable government pension programs exist throughout the country and have for many decades, so any existing representatives are dealing with legacy problems created by the political magnetism that large numbers of union votes represent to politicians. As noted above, unless officials have inalienable rights to break pension contracts or unions (which they don’t), then all they can do is negotiate better terms as some have done while others simply complain.

When Duff writes articles here, his articles are filled with numbers and specifics for his claims; his critics seem to simply decry the state of things today and refuse to present policy specifics as they tend to have none.

Yes, it would often be nice to rewrite history but that is not an option and public servants must deal only in the here and now and the future.

To believe that a Republican majority in the state house would solve deficit and union problems quickly with a wave of the hand ignores the reality we see at the federal level; with control of the legislative and executive branches, the party remains largely ineffective.

M. Murray August 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

I also encourage you to research SEBAC v. Rowland. This was the last time a Governor (Republican) rwfused to negotiate concessions and instead used massive layoffs to try and reduce the deficit when the unions refused to just give concessions without any negotiated benefit in the middle of an existing contract. The state is still in the process of paying state employees millions and millions as a result of losing that lawsuit. If you are going to try to go back on your word in the middle of the contract, you are going to have to get something in order to get something. That is the whol point of contracts.

An Observor August 4, 2017 at 11:15 am

Give Ehlers credit for effective rhetoric that uses statistics to mislead. When he compares the $1bill savings to the $5.1 deficit, he implies that deficit is entirely due to union contracts. It is not.
But since he wants to discuss “sweetheart” contracts, I recommend looking at the state website that lists all salaries. I was quite surprised to see how many state employees were paid more than $1 million that were not even big name coaches. Why is Mr. Ehlers not upset by that?

Bryan Meek August 4, 2017 at 11:49 am

@M. Murray. You are essentially correct, but are missing one key element. This contract is not in good faith. When union leadership gets to vote on both sides of the deal and there are no real benefits to the taxpayers, then it isn’t worth the paper it is written on as should be the case here. I’m not even sure why we have a state ethics commission when union leadership is elected to the legislature and gets to vote on their own pay and job security. The same way local police officers shouldn’t be appointed to the Norwalk Police Commission, the state leadership is acting unethically.

@Isabella. They are not free ice cream socials. They are funded by taxpayers through the Citizens Election Fund that gave Bob $85,000 to run for office.

Steve August 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm

What employees of the State pay in nothing towards a pension but get one? Likewise, for what municipality does the employee who works a 4 hour day but gets paid for a 40 hour work week work for? Sounds a lot like Reagan’s non-existent cadillac welfare queen. Great rhetoric but no facts to back it up with. Likewise you don’t get paid 75% of your pension at 55 unless you worked a rough 37.5 full time years first (and contributed to your pension as well) Geez…

Rick August 4, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Maybe the Sono Collection used Bobs math they just announced Thursday its share of development costs at $525 million — up $240 million or 84 percent from projections it had reiterated only three months earlier.

Thank you Greg for pointing out the first set of facts I thought releasing the info on top of what you have said is more like topping on a cake for a friday wake.

Now Bob said lets build the mall ,now that the mall took back almost 200 parking spots and lied to city hall on its intensions of the mall now what?

The Hour was shamed into reporting bad news today on the Mall information produced in their article is a month old .

The city is following the state down the hole ,guess Bob wants friends at the bottom,nice move Bob.

Bobs friend Murphy raises $2M in last quarter, total cash on hand at $5.1M

Chris can you spare some change?

Democrats proposed raising the sales tax rate from 6.35 to 6.99 percent, placing surcharges on restaurant and hotel transactions, and dedicating some of those receipts to bolster municipal aid.

No matter what vote this insanity back in and lets thank Bob for the pearl necklace he delivers so well.

Norwalk has Himes Murpy and Duff and tops it off with a failed mall that hasn’t been built yet

Donna August 4, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Since 2004, the year Duff was first elected, the percent of Connecitcut workers who belong to unions has increased (from 16.6 to 17.4%) while union employment nationwide has exhibited a downward trend. Senator Duff receives union money and depends on union votes. Since the Great Recession, employment gains in the public sector have outpaced private sector gains. Yes, it is difficult to renegotiate a contract that still has five years on it. I guess that’s why Duff approved a compromise guaranteeing no layoffs for ten years–until 2027. And Ehlers does provide some facts to back up his disappointment in Duff, namely the remainging 4.1 billion dollar budget shortfall that the state will have to make up, most likely at the expense of our schools. Duff has failed to improve the reimbursement rate for NPS. I expect that trend to continue. The result of that failure is higher property taxes to cover the gap, resulting in more wealth leaving the city and the state.

@Bryan Meek, so if Bob Duff buys you an ice cream cone, are you saying that doesn’t mean he’s your friend? Because I’m pretty sure there are lots of people who believe in the power of ice cream cones to bend the will of voters.

joe norwalk August 4, 2017 at 10:45 pm

This state better wake up and smell the coffee because these democrats are screwing all of us…
its politics as usual and they don’t give a dam about this state… all they care about is lining their pockets… meanwhile Malloy, Duff or Doof as I call him are running this state into the ground….

where’s the fiscal constraint? WE HAVE A 5 BILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT PEOPLE!!! and these jokers are negotiating with unions when their contracts don’t expire for another 5 years? WTF are they doing??

Malloy destroyed Stamford and is now pulling an Obama on this state and trying to destroy CT and run it into the ground as well… I moved here because taxes were affordable and now they are not, with the amount we all pay in taxes our schools should look like NASA and not a rundown building in need of repairs…These schools never have supplies, what are they doing with our money…giving it to unions that’s what.

what’s next is I am going to leave for another state as this is becoming unbearable… pretty soon all we will have is Rich and Poor people in this state…the middle class will be non existent…Doof you are a disgrace to this state and need to be held accountable…

The only way to stop this nonsense is to vote these phonies out and put in more fiscally responsible politicians who really care for this state…not these bums.

Srb August 5, 2017 at 7:27 am

Are we stuck in 1981? Unions bad? Is the % of union employees working in Ct due to Bob Duff? He’s gotta be one powerful figure. Bryan Meek and joe norwalk do you really aspire to be like a non-union State. Compare a broad spectrum of standard of living metrics btw union friendly states and non. Other than Utah, on every other metric from life expectancy to education levels to income the right to work states lag

Wineshine August 5, 2017 at 7:55 am

@Steve- Why is it that naysayers, dare I say, liberals, when confronted with facts, always say, “where are the facts”, but when there are false indictments of conservatives, the Dem train fills up faster than Stew Leonard’s on a Saturday morning? The facts are right in front of your nose. Rising property taxes, union contracts loaded with benefits and no concessions, a city goverment that consistently gives developers abatements, concessions and extensions at taxpayer expense, a mayor who is only about a second pension, city employees living better than private industry citizens (take a look at the parking lot at city hall, and notice the Maserati’s, BMW’s and Jaguars) lagging school test scores, and sagging property value. Those are facts. What has Bob done for you?

M. Murray August 5, 2017 at 9:13 am

Bryan Meek, when has there been an active police officer on the Police Commission? I don’t think that is even possible.

Donna August 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

This isn’t a black and white dilemma, where fair minded liberals support unions and evil fiscal conservatives want to tear them down to save the rich money. The concessions approved this week tie the hands of the legislature and the future governor with regard to layoffs (none for four years) and benefits (no changes for ten years). The remaining budget deficit will be paid for via cuts in funding to municipalities. Bob Duff hasn’t exactly done a bang up job bringing state money into the NPS. And this plan won’t make the reimbursement rate any better for Norwalk schools. Duff did not create the unions. But his tenure parallels an increase in union penetration in CT that is out of step with what we’re seeing elsewhere.

Right or wrong, people who work for a living and pay taxes are at wits end. They pay more into the system and get less out of it. No wonder they’re mostly angry about union contracts they perceive to be cushy. Most of us don’t have the luxury of knowing we won’t be laid off or that our benefits won’t change over ten years.

M. Murray August 5, 2017 at 3:11 pm

It’s not rocket science. Malloy created a lot of this problem after the concessions of 2011 by hiring a bunch of state workers with these new found savings from the concessions. Many retirements have gone unfilled for the past two years. Let’s see if they rush to refill these positions after the givebacks take effect when they can hire new employees with less generous pension plans. Instead of leaving those positions vacant and reducing the workforce, and labor costs, by attrition. There will be an accompanying reduction in services, But this would help reduce the budget.

Sara Sikes August 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Is this a fair deal for taxpayers? Pew Research tells us that the average baby boomer has a little more than $100K in their 401k account, and only 13% have any pension, let alone a sustainable pension. Those who do not qualify for Medicare have no medical insurance or likely one with high deductible. Many baby boomers who can no love nger work will move out of state.
I spoke with a CT public sector union leader this week who was worried about a Republican administration coming in next year and ending collective bargaining so that union benefits can be cut back. Not sure about that likelihood since Republicans bear a lot of the blame for concessions to unions and failing to fund their retirement plans.
What will happen to CT residents in future?

Steve August 6, 2017 at 6:39 am

my Goodness how many trolls sit around and watch what cars are parked and where. I don’t doubt that there are expensive cars parked at City Hall, some may be owned by people working there, some maybe owned by people visiting there

Wineshine August 6, 2017 at 7:31 am

Would that be your response to anyone who makes an observation based on deductive reasoning, or should I feel special?

Steve August 6, 2017 at 10:01 am

where’s the logical deduction wineshine? Do you watch the people coming out of their cars to see where they go? How do you know it’s not a developer who’s headed to the building department? How do you know it’s not another car troller who’s checking the brand and model of other cars? The cars parked at city hall aren’t exclusively used by the people who work there. Childish…Likewise Meek’s trolling of cars in public housing. Honestly, I drive by public housing everyday and once in a while see an expensive car but that’s not the lion share but the anomaly; much less while there are income limitations to people moving into public housing, once they’re there they can earn more but then they have to pay more and they lose the subsidization. Reagan helped make the cadillac welfare queen a general term but it was totally fallacious. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/welfare-queen-myth/501470/

Bryan Meek August 6, 2017 at 11:04 am

@M. Murray. That’s exactly my point. The House Majority leader is employed by AFSCME. A pure conflict of interest when he votes to support labor contracts. He should recuse himself entirely. The Ethics Commission has a 1.4 million budget. There’s instant savings right there since it is obviously not a functioning body.

Bryan Meek August 6, 2017 at 11:15 am

@SRB. Nothing wrong with organized labor. However, there is something ethically and morally corrupt when only certain labor organizations have special laws created just for them, not only get to negotiate their contracts but get to approve them as well. The result of this practice over decades is why we are where we are today. Stuck in an uncompetitive rut with a very negative outlook from most economists and credit ratings agencies. This state needs a Wisconsin moment before it bankrupts itself.

Wineshine August 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Again with the name-calling Stevo? That you go there so easily means that you and I are not long for a civilized conversation, but let me leave you with this: If you see a cow and hear an oink, what is your chain of logic? Do you say, “Hmm, cows can now oink”, or “there must be a pig around here somewhere”? One and only one answer shows your ability to logically deduce an outcome.

Now, stay with me here. That you jumped to the conclusion that I “troll” parking lots, and wait for car owners to come out, (which by the way is false logic because how do you know the person getting into the car is the legal owner?) means you might need to brush up on the subject of deductive reasoning. Same cars, same spots, every day. You do the math. You may want to consider the continuing education program at NCC. Okay, we’re done.

By the way, when you swing by city hall tomorrow to check it out, don’t forget to observe the cars parked on Beacon Street, almost like they’re being hidden from view. People are highly predictable, Steve. Trust me. And, if you miss them, try again because they’re there every day.

And last question, really: How many months have 28 days?

Srb August 6, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Wine shine ur not a parking lot troll you just go there regularly to see what cars are parked there and where exactly they park day after day. As for Wisconsin, is it really in such good shape? One of the strongest recoveries since 2008 has been Minnesota which has been pro union and progressive. It’s demographics are akin to Wisconsin but it’s economic results have swamped Wisconsin. Economics isn’t based off faith but facts. Wine shine you can go to property tax records to check what cars are owned by whom, stop hanging Out in parking Lots you’ll get a reputation

Donna August 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The point isn’t whether or not union employees of the City of Norwalk City drive really nice cars. Maybe Wineshine bases his opinion on empirical observations. Maybe he’s a parking lot troll. Maybe both. The more important observation is what do these concessions do to offset projected retirement obligations by the state. And the answer is nothing. Significantly–unsurprisingly–the retirement concession involving a hybrid plan impacts only future employees.

My empirical observation is performance based and informed by ordinary logic. Why would a City attorney need to belong to a union? And yet we have two of those. Why? Job security. My very limited observation is that in exchange for job security, Norwalk traded initiative. I’m stumped by some of the groups who form the bargaining coalition for state workers. Planners? Architects? Unions had great value historically, protecting workers from long work days, six day weeks, no benefits, etc. Unions still have value. But holistically speaking, unions are better for workers than they are for municipalities. As one union spokesperson said, the membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of these concessions because they are taxpayers too. And while I appreciate the desire to tax hedge fund managers appropriately, I don’t think union leaders should be trying to leverage their might to force tax hikes on the state that will drive wealth elsewhere.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.