The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - [email protected]­medi­act.com

“They were cu­ri­ous, like when he said, ‘in good times and bad times,’ what does that mean? He didn’t say con­ces­sions,” Barr said.

“Maybe it’s PTSD from what hap­pened in the past, but I think our mem­bers were just con­cerned,” Barr said, re­fer­ring to post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Barr and oth­ers per­suaded the fear­ful ones that La­mont will stick with his prom­ises to stick by unions — but will seek “win-win” changes that save the state money with­out hurt­ing work­ers, like the 2011 pre­ven­tive health re­quire­ments.

His ex­pres­sion is that la­bor will be at the ta­ble, not on the ta­ble. “He in­cluded us in the cam­paign, he in­cluded us in the tran­si­tion, and now we’re go­ing to be

part of his term as gov­er­nor,” said Barr, a calm sort who’s not given to the bom­bas­tics of some la­bor lead­ers.

Both sides say they feel harmed by the bud­gets of the last decade. For­mer Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy en­acted two big tax in­creases, Repub­li­cans say, with­out ex­tract­ing enough from la­bor. “The shared sac­ri­fices were not in fact so shared,” O’Neil said.

The unions claim their six re­cent years of pay freezes, 3 per­cent across the board charges for health care for at least ten years, 2 per­cent floors for pen­sion, higher co-pays and lower ben­e­fits for new em­ploy­ees all rep­re­sent more than enough. “We are very very sen­si­tive to our mem­ber­ship’s give­backs again and again and again,” Barr said.

Barr tells a story about lead­ers of the three rank-and-file cor­rec­tions unions, to­tal­ing 5,000 mem­bers, upset that La­mont named Rollin Cook, a re­former from Utah, as com­mis­sioner — with­out

con­sult­ing them.

“We reached out to Ned with our con­cerns, and Ned did the right thing and called those lo­cal pres­i­dents and had a dis­cus­sion with them about why he made the de­ci­sion he made.”

Cri­sis averted — but now they get harder. La­mont’s bud­get pro­posal isn’t due un­til mid- to late-Fe­bru­ary. His of­fice didn’t is­sue any state­ments clear­ing up the ques­tion, prob­a­bly be­cause La­mont and bud­get czar Melissa McCaw don’t know yet.

My guess is he’ll be able to avert a stand­off this year us­ing mea­sures be­sides call­ing the unions back to re­open the 2017-27 deal, such as tap­ping part of the rainy day fund.

If the econ­omy doesn’t co­op­er­ate in 2020, all bets are off — on both sides. That may be un­fair but it could be nec­es­sary.

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