Hartford Council Appears Ready To Break With Bronin On Finance Bill – Hartford Courant

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HARTFORD — City council members appear poised Monday to vote down a measure showing support for legislation, championed by Mayor Luke Bronin, that would create an oversight panel with final say over new union contracts.

The council had been split over whether it would back the bill. Four Democrats — Julio Concepcion, John Gale, Glendowlyn Thames and James Sanchez — had declared their intention to support it. Four others — Democrat rJo Winch and Working Families Party members Larry Deutsch, Wildaliz Bermudez and Cynthia Jennings — have said they are opposed.

The tiebreaker, council President Thomas “TJ” Clarke II, indicated Monday that he would not back the proposal. The council’s measure will come up for a vote at a special committee meeting Monday night.

Clarke said he would only support the oversight legislation if Bronin first tried other cost-cutting measures, like departmental consolidations and furlough days for non-union employees.

“I’m not convinced he has exhausted every measure,” Clarke said Monday morning. He said Bronin should continue to meet with union officials to work out a deal.

Bronin has pushed for the oversight bill, saying the city must take dramatic steps to help close a $48.5 million gap in the coming fiscal year. Though it is still early in the negotiation process, Bronin said he is urging the bill along because the legislature is only in session another month and Hartford cannot afford to count on significant union concessions.

Gale said Monday that if a majority of the council doesn’t support the measure, it could hinder the city in negotiations.

“I think it does leave the mayor without leverage,” Gale said. “I think [a no-vote] hurts the mayor’s bargaining position at a time when bargaining units may be prepared to deal in good faith and assist the city. Hearing this message may cause them to just re-trench.”

The bill before state lawmakers would create an oversight board to review the city’s finances, make suggestions, and take control of union talks. The panel would also have the power to approve or reject collective bargaining contracts for a new term, including those of the board of education.

Additionally, the bill would enable the city to collect levies from the largest tax-exempt organizations and surcharges from the largest taxpaying property owners in Hartford.

Bronin and a state official would co-chair the oversight board, and it would include council members, the city treasurer, people from the business community, and a union representative.

Asked Monday about the fractured support for the measure, Bronin said: “We’re in uncharted territory as a city and I understand that people are uncomfortable with some of the proposals that we put forward, but there are no comfortable routes. There are no comfortable options out there.”

“At the end of the day we have no choice but to get the city on the right path,” he said.

Some members of Hartford’s legislative delegation have already said they would not support the bill, and that they expect city leaders to work toward solutions with the city’s unions.

Although all nine council members are expected to take a position on the proposal Monday, the measure supporting the oversight legislation would have to go back before the council for a vote at a regularly scheduled meeting. That could happen later this month.

Hartford Council Appears Ready To Break With Bronin On Finance Bill – Hartford Courant}