By SUSAN HAIGH,   Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Tom Foley, the Connecticut Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for governor, tried to assure the state’s largest labor organization Monday he will stand by the 2011 concession deal reached with state employee unions, saying a deal is a deal and that he has no plans to undo collective bargaining rights.

Foley, a Greenwich businessman who still faces a GOP primary in August, also tried to address comments he made about Connecticut needing a “Wisconsin moment,” referring to a highly contentious limiting of collective bargaining rights in that state. Foley’s remarks have drawn criticism.

At the opening day of the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s two-day biennial political convention in New Haven, Foley said his comments were about changing the balance of power in Hartford, where both the executive and legislative branches are controlled by Democrats. While Foley said his comments were not about scaling back collective bargaining rights, some of the nearly 300 convention delegates snickered.

“Did I say something funny?” Foley asked the crowd, which moments earlier had heard a rousing speech from a Wisconsin union leader who warned the union members against complacency.

Afterward, Foley told reporters he believes opponents have misconstrued his comments and he wanted to set the record straight at the convention, which is expected to endorse Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for a second term. Malloy was scheduled to address the crowd later in the afternoon.

“This is a different state, with different citizens with different laws. There’s no reason to assume that somebody who says, `Well, I think there should be more balance in our state government and I wish there were more Republicans in office,’ means that what Republicans did in some other state is what Republicans should do in Connecticut.”

Foley told reporters there’s no opportunity in Connecticut to do what was done in Wisconsin, saying it would be a “fool’s errand” to try to roll back collective bargaining rights.

Lori Pelletier, the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s executive secretary-treasurer, didn’t believe Foley.

“When he said he wanted a `Wisconsin moment,’ it was not about the makeup of the General Assembly versus the different branches of government,” she said. “That was not what he was talking about. It was in a series of questions about collective bargaining.”

Pelletier also appeared unimpressed with Foley’s promise not to reopen a labor deal Malloy reached with most of the state employee unions, saying former Gov. John G. Rowland had made a similar promise and broke it. A four-year no-layoff provision in the agreement is set to expire next year while provisions affecting state employee pensions and health care benefits won’t expire until 2022.

Foley said he has seen literature from groups opposing his candidacy predicting he would attempt to reopen the deal, which affects only those bargaining units that ratified the agreement. But Foley told the crowd that can keep state spending flat for two years without undoing the labor deal.

“You can tell everybody that I told you that and made that commitment to you,” Foley said.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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