The Associated Press covered 1199’s new television spot that begin airing in February featuring state members. Read the article here!
Sue Haigh, Associated Press
February 29, 2016
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Amid worsening state budget deficit projections and a threat of more than 1,000 job cuts, one of Connecticut’s largest state employee unions launched a television ad campaign on Monday attempting to portray state workers as more than a “budget cut” or “political football.”
The 30-second spot was released by SEIU District 1199, a union that represents more than 7,600 state employees, including nurses, direct care workers and others. It marks the first public salvo in what could be a contentious debate in the coming weeks among Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the General Assembly and the state employee unions over how best to address the state’s current and projected shortfalls.
The ad is part of the union’s “One Connecticut” campaign. It appears to underscore the frustration of some state workers following successive years of budget deficits and cuts to state services they provide.
“I’m not sure how the state employee is actually driving that cost as much as they say that we’re driving it. I’m just not seeing it on our end,” said Darnell Ford, a direct care staffer at the Department of Children and Families who works with children with mental health issues and appears in the TV ad. “It’s frustrating and concerning that we’re being blamed, we’re being targeted.”
Vivian Riera Llantin, who oversees the HIV prevention program at the Department of Public Health, says in the ad, “I am not a budget cut.” She said there is a misperception in the public that state employees are “always the ones damaging the budget.”
The ad comes as new figures from the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis show the deficit in the current $20 billion fiscal year general fund budget has grown to $266 million, and the following fiscal year beginning July 1 could be $900 million in the red.
Last week, Malloy, a Democrat, told reporters that those figures could either improve or worsen. But in the meantime, he promised “state government is going to be substantially smaller in the not too distant future.” On Monday, his administration canceled expected pay raises for managers, saying the state’s fiscal situation has “deteriorated significantly.”
Denise Bystrek is a head nurse at the Department of Veterans Affairs health center in Rocky Hill proclaims in the ad that she is not a political football. She said she has already seen support services such as respiratory therapy, X-rays and laboratory services reduced in recent years.
“We’re at minimum staffing, so it’s hard to imagine what layoffs would look like, because it seems like every budget year they cut more and more and the services get cut back more and more. And really, what’s left?” she asked.
While Malloy’s administration is negotiating new contracts with most of the state employee unions, the governor has also called on union leaders to consider making changes to the pension and benefits package for unionized state employees that is not set to expire until 2022.
Ford said state workers would likely be willing to talk about possible changes, but not before others, such as wealthy citizens and corporations, are asked to help to solve the budget problem.
“You need to take a look at someone other than just us,” he said. “Whoever is not paying their fair share, we should be looking at them also.”