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Bronin Claims “Dramatic” Labor Savings in Hartford; Record and Budget Suggest Otherwise

March 27, 2018 By Staff
Bronin Claims “Dramatic” Labor Savings in Hartford; Record and Budget Suggest Otherwise

Announcing approval of the state's agreement to pay Hartford's debts, Mayor Luke Bronin claimed he has achieved "dramatic" labor savings. Does the record back that up?

Mayor Luke Bronin (D-Hartford), a gubernatorial candidate in 2018, claimed he has achieved “dramatic” labor savings on Monday night, in a press release announcing the city council had approved the state’s agreement to pay $550 million in Hartford’s debts.

“We cut tens of millions of dollars in spending, negotiated dramatic savings with our labor unions, and secured a commitment from our biggest employers to be part of a comprehensive solution. We also made clear from the beginning that even the most draconian cuts and the most dramatic labor concessions would not be enough to provide fiscal stability to a city built on the tax base of a suburb, with half its property tax-exempt, and with rising fixed costs locked in years ago.”

What are the “dramatic” savings Bronin has achieved in his short time as mayor? It’s an important question, given the young leader wants to take the reins of a state that may need to negotiate “dramatic” savings with statewide labor leaders if it is to avoid bankruptcy.

Unfortunately for Bronin, the record shows his savings haven’t been quite dramatic.

In his adopted fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, published on July 1, 2017, Bronin noted (page nine, emphasis ours):

“Comparing this year’s budget to last year, our costs increase because of rising debt service payments, higher required pension contributions, inflation in health care costs, costly legal judgments from years past, and the absence of serious concessions from our labor unions, with the exception of the Hartford Fire Fighters Association.

Later in the document (page 26), Bronin’s office wrote (emphasis ours):

Secondly, the FY2017 Adopted Budget assumed a savings of $16.5 million in employee concessions. The FY2018 Adopted Budget includes $4 million in employee concessions, which reflects the minimum the city believes is achievable. This change in concessions assumption from $16.5 million to $4 million results in a budget adjustment of $12.5 million. Please note that the savings of $3.9 million associated with the successful negotiation of the Fire union contract is reflected in lower wages, health and pension costs in these respective line items.

So from his first budget (FY 2017) to his second budget (FY 2018), Bronin revised his “dramatic” savings assumptions from $16.5 million down to less than a quarter of that ($4 million).

A quick review of Bronin’s press room found that, since the FY 2018 budget was adopted, Bronin has had one labor concession to announce: with the Hartford Police Union (HPU), for $2 million in FY 2018 savings.

Given the state is now on the hook for $550 million of Hartford’s debt over 20 years, a few million in concessions from labor unions hardly seems “dramatic.”