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Dec 16, 2008

Gov Paterson’s plan calls for 3,100 job cuts

Gov. David Paterson wants to cut more than 3,000 jobs from the state work force as one of many ways the state can save money.

Paterson proposed the move, and several other measures, on Tuesday as he released his $121.1 billion budget proposal for the state’s 2009-10 fiscal year, which starts next spring. The state faces $15.4 billion in deficits over the next 15 months.

Influential labor unions instantly attacked the proposals, and they vowed to combat the proposed cuts.

The 3,108 jobs that Paterson wants to eliminate through layoffs, consolidation and attrition account for 1.6 percent of the state’s full-time work force. A quarter of the state’s 200,000 full-time employees live in the Capital Region, making the area prone to negative economic impacts resulting from a shrinking state work force.

Aside from the reduction in the work force, Paterson also wants state workers to:

  • contribute more to their health care costs;
  • give up a scheduled 3 percent pay raise next year, saving $180 million.
  • defer five days of pay, collected when employees leave the work force. This would save $121 million next year.

“We went to great lengths to make sure this budget does not include wholesale layoffs across agencies,” Paterson spokesman Errol Cockfield said after the governor’s budget presentation to legislators on Tuesday. “The governor prefers to keep people employed and views layoffs as an absolute last resort.”

Still, that did not sit well with labor unions, who have deep bank accounts. A quarter of all workers in New York are unionized, the highest ratio in the nation. That amounts to 2.06 million workers, second-most in the nation, behind California.

Paterson’s budget “represents death by a thousand cuts,” said Daniel Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association.

“His proposals for cuts in aid to health care, schools and local governments will only lead to job loss and drastic reductions,” Donohue said. What’s most disturbing is that at a time when we need leadership that inspires us, all we’re getting are political knee-jerks and scapegoating of public employees.”

The Public Employees Federation, representing 53,000 white-collar state workers, denounced Paterson’s suggestion that state workers waive a scheduled 3 percent salary raise next year to save the state money.

“Many of the proposals, particularly regarding benefits, do nothing to address the fiscal crisis, but appear to be decisions based more on ideology rather than the need to provide immediate savings,” said Kenneth Brynien, president of the union. “[Paterson’s] proposed 2009-10 budget includes destructive cuts in state services and the state work force while ignoring cost-cutting options that can save the state billions.”

The unions have suggested a variety of moves, such as decreasing the use of outside consultants and tapping the state’s $1.2 billion in “rainy day” emergency funds.

“Their ideas didn’t yield great amounts of savings,” Paterson said, responding to a question about union complaints. The governor said he hopes unions will be “more understanding” of the cuts he’s asking of them once they see other cuts Paterson is asking from other sectors and groups.

Source : BusinessReview
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