The Capitol Beat: December 16, 2016

Still No Announcements on Legislative Committee Makeup for 2017

With just two and a half weeks before the gavel sounds on January 4th convening the 2017 General Assembly session, there have been no formal announcements from legislative leaders on the makeup of committees.

Historically, these announcements are made before the holidays, but decisions have been complicated by the 18-18 post-election tie in the state Senate. It is our understanding that the Senate GOP has been seeking power-sharing agreements in the committees and in the chamber; however, it is not known whether any discussions have been fruitful.

Note: We will share announcements as they are made, along with any other sessional information of importance. Committee deadlines and sessional rules are adopted on opening day; the Governor is scheduled to give his budget address in early February.

Moody’s Offers Muted Praise for Administration’s Proposal to Restructure State Pension System; Republicans Say It Doesn’t Finish the Job

An agreement struck a week ago by the Malloy administration and the state employee unions to restructure the state’s pension system received muted praise from Moody’s Investors, but criticism from GOP lawmakers who said it does not go far enough.

The proposal was crafted to avoid an impending spike in pension payments projected to reach $6.6 billion by 2032. Among other things, it calls for flattening out and extending the state’s investment losses further into the future and lowering projected investment returns.

Under the proposed agreement, the state still would make annual payments of between $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion between now and 2032, with the payments flattening to $1.7 billion until at least 2046. Additionally, the proposal assumes a more modest annual return on pension fund investments of 6.9 percent, as opposed to the current rate of 8 percent.

While Moody’s did not alter Connecticut’s credit rating, it praised the proposal as a “positive” step.

GOP leaders argue that the proposal does not go far enough because it doesn’t affect benefit levels for current or future retirees, nor does it change workers’ pension contribution levels. “Simply refinancing our debt is not the structural change we need to change the direction of the state,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano.

The Legislature will have 30 days from January 4, 2017 to reject the agreement or it takes effect. House and Senate GOP leaders are pushing for a vote on the proposal.

Senate GOP Brings on Linda Yelmini, Former Longtime Labor Negotiator for State

Senate Republican leaders announced Monday that they have hired Linda Yelmini, a former state labor negotiator whose career spanned 28 years and five administrations, presumably to help find efficiencies in state labor contracts and employment agreements in light of $1 billion-plus budget deficits projected in 2018-19.

Yelmini, who departed the Malloy administration in 2014, will serve as a part-time consultant and researcher to the Senate GOP caucus.

As head of the state Office of Policy and Management’s Office of Labor Relations, Yelmini was responsible for negotiating labor contracts and retirement agreements. She also formerly served as a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Public Safety before it was assimilated into the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and as a member of the State Employees Retirement Commission.

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