Editorial: What did state unions expect?

Thursday, March 26, 2009
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Gov. David Paterson’s announcement of plans to lay off nearly 9,000 state workers this summer will probably make him even less popular politically than he already was, but it’s hard not to admire him at least a little for sticking to his guns on the state budget.

Paterson’s popularity ratings are in the dumper, to be sure — even lower than Eliot Spitzer’s at his nadir. And no doubt part of the reason has been his hard line on the state budget deficit, which, thanks to the rotten economy, has swelled by another $2 billion, to $16 billion, for next year. New York hasn’t faced this kind of fiscal crunch in decades, and the governor’s budget tried to address it in earnest. Unfortunately, legislators (and the state workers’ unions) have refused to cooperate.

Lawmakers have already killed or are likely to kill such revenue-producing plans as the obesity tax, the sales tax on theater tickets, golf fees and massages, the cap on tax payments to towns with forest preserve land, etc. And state workers have essentially mocked the governor for suggesting that they forgo previously negotiated pay raises or defer their paychecks a week, buying hundreds of thousands of dollars of television commercials to protest the proposed cuts. What choice does Paterson have but to impose layoffs? The state cannot legally run deficits the way the federal government can, borrowing to close the gap — as has been done in the past — would be ruinous, and there’s just no way to use gimmicks or smoke and mirrors with this much money.

While adding thousands to the unemployment rolls in a deep recession is ill advised, cruel even, there appears to be no other choice — unless the unions relent on givebacks and the Legislature softens on cuts. The state simply can’t get by with a business-as-usual budget this year.

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March 26, 2009
6:58 a.m.
bigjohnsr1965 says...

Commandant Fozzy Bear should go get a shave and change his attitude. He stated the unions gave him no choice, which is a lie. They offered him several which included the millionaire tax being enforced, and because it didn't agree with his agenda he started a lay off. I hope the union stands strong as they should, when you sign a contract, its concrete. The future contracts would mean nothing, if they were to break it. Hey fozzy, go get a shave.

March 26, 2009
7:13 a.m.
irene says...

Like many school districts are finding out, you can't close that kind of gap by cutting the small stuff. I don't see what choice he has. Remember, it's shared pain.

March 26, 2009
11:14 a.m.
ignoredissue says...

Gov. David Paterson’s approved huge pay raises and promotions for his direct staff who already earned ridiculously huge salaries. The hard working State employees who struggle to support there families he wants to take away 3% negotiated cost of living raise and 5 days pay, these hard working employees also can not get promoted under his State hiring freeze.
Where is the so called shared sacrifice here?

March 26, 2009
11:39 a.m.
earthwarrior54 says...

I know everyone is in an uproar & feel state employees are getting what is coming to them. However, I’m not sure everyone understands the whole story. 1st, state employees aren't the selfish, greedy, lazy workers many have us made out to be. If giving up or postponing our raises was the LAST resort to save our, or our coworkers jobs, we would do it in a heartbeat. The problem stems from the Gov’s ignoring other options to save or generate funds & even more so his blatant hypocrisy & duplicity. He wants state workers to give up a previously negotiated cost of living increase yet he gave his staff a 28% raise! He continues to spend, allowing unnecessary political appointments costing the state millions. How can he possibly expect a unified front when he doesn’t practice what he preaches? To me it now seems the Governor has a personal vendetta against state employees because we didn't roll over to his demands. Not the best way to do business & get folks to work with you. Here is a list of options presented to the Gov. I’d like to know why he has not considered them or does not feel they would work:

1. Increase the income tax on wealthy New Yorkers; ranging from the millionaire tax approved by the Assembly to the temporary surcharge enacted in 2003. Savings: $2 - $7 billion depending on the income levels/rates.
2. Reduce consultant costs by instituting a freeze on new contracts & examining current contracts to see which can be terminated & done by state employees at a lower cost. Savings: up to $750 million a yr.
3. Enact the bigger better bottle bill. Savings: $200 million per fiscal year.
4. Collect taxes that are due – especially cigarette taxes on reservation purchases by non-Indians . Savings: $400 million to $1.6 billion a yr.
5. Reform economic development programs to level the playing field among businesses in NYS, improve effectiveness & accountability of Industrial Development Agencies, Apply Brownfield Clean Up Program reforms to “grandfathered” projects & Reform the Empire Zones program. Savings: $50 million/yr to $500 million after 10 yrs.
6. Improve the way Limited Liability Company’s annual fees are calculated & close corporate tax loopholes. Savings: $75 million/yr (based on 07).
7. Use NYS purchasing power for reduced prices for prescription drugs for Medicaid, state employees & other state programs. Savings: appx $100 million a yr.
8. Use the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund/Rainy Day Reserve Fund = $1 billion & is
intended for fiscal emergencies.
9. Eliminate / restrict overtime by hiring full-time employees to handle the overtime hours. Savings: appx $160 million a yr.
These proposals have the potential of reducing the budget deficit by as much as $10 billion without severe cuts to programs and services. In any case, interesting times are ahead that is for sure…..

March 27, 2009
6:58 a.m.
bigjohnsr1965 says...

I agree, Commandant fozzy bear Patterson is wrong, he did after all give his staff a 28% raise, and then stated" My staff has agreed to not except the 3% raise," sure they already got a 28% raise why except the 3%. Patterson giving his "Token", 10% back , why does he need money, he has use of the mansion, free food, health care , the state pays the electric and heat bills, maid service, and car service. Boy I would like to have all those luxuries, wouldn't you? I still see no reason for him to need a salary of $179,000.per year. I believe he should give 90% back, and turn down any raises, then give all the luxuries up, then ask for what he wants, lead by example. I also believe he should leave the state workers alone, he wants to break the union thats all, he's not willing to give, and I believe the union should stand strong against him.

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