Reveal the SEBAC offer now; and study the effects of zoning derogation | Chris Powell

By recently announcing giveaways for various municipalities and organizations, Governor Lamont used government money to win support for his re-election campaign, as any incumbent would. But any goodies awarded so far fall short of the spending the governor would incur on state employee unions, the main engine of his party, the Democrats.

State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition umbrella contract expires and this week the Connecticut Mirror reported some basic terms of the new contract proposal on which the governor and the unions are in agreement. These conditions are extremely generous.

Unionized employees would receive signing bonuses of $3,500 by July and increases of 2.5% in each of the next three years, as well as annual “step” increases to gain seniority. If the seniority increases are not yet known, they could easily bring the total annual increases to 5%, or even 15% over three years.

With the country’s real inflation rate being around 15%, the signing bonuses and increases in the proposed contract will not fully protect government employees from the erosion of their standard of living. Even so, the gains from the contract appear likely to exceed the wage gains that private sector workers and taxpayers will receive.

In any case, anyone in Connecticut who is not employed by the state government should have the opportunity to review the contract long before it is submitted to the General Assembly for ratification.

The governor and the unions do not want this to happen. Their plan is to withhold details until the unions ratify the contract and present it to the General Assembly, after which time public scrutiny and participation in the matter will have been significantly reduced, even though the unions have long lobbied lawmakers.

Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau notes: “Connecticut’s state government has an unfortunate history of governors negotiating bad labor deals that deliver higher taxes and lower quality services. In an election year where state officials will be seeking the endorsement of many powerful unions they are now ‘negotiating’ with, it is important that taxpayers see exactly what is on the table and have a chance to weigh in on the promises made on their behalf.”

Republican Minority Leader in the state House of Representatives, Vincent J. Candelora of North Branford, smells of corruption. “Having the governor hand out bonuses right before an election smacks of political reward,” Candelora said.

Of course, in an election year, almost everything a state government does is likely to involve political motivation, or even reward. Compensation or not, the purpose of state employee unions is not to advance the public interest but to crush it, and if the unions are happy with their new contract, the public will get less value from the government, no more.

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The General Assembly should pass a law requiring the state housing commissioner to study the effects of the law allowing developers to override zoning in exclusive cities, but not for the reasons given by the bill’s sponsor.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Jennifer Leeper, D-Fairfield, who complains that the Zoning Derogation Act is increasing population density too much in her city and other suburbs and causing widespread division policies.

But then the exclusive zoning of many suburbs and rural towns also caused too much division – economic class and racial segregation.

Yes, as opponents of the Zoning Derogation Act note, more housing may force some cities to increase infrastructure. But it is progress. If the Indians had thought about zoning, Connecticut wouldn’t be here.

There are two good things about Leeper’s bill. First, it shows that support for exclusionary zoning is coming not just from Republicans but also from suburban Democrats like Leeper.

The other benefit of the bill is that the study might conclude that the zoning variance law doesn’t really have much of an effect. For housing prices have skyrocketed in Connecticut, demonstrating a desperate housing shortage not only for the dreaded and dreaded poor, but also for the young, self-employed and middle class.

Since housing is a necessity, rising housing prices are as detrimental as rising food and gasoline prices.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer.

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