Spending bill fails to fund 4 percent raises for state workers

Gov. David Paterson said Thursday he will suspend state workers’ 4 percent pay raises in a new emerg

Gov. David Paterson said Thursday he will suspend state workers’ 4 percent pay raises in a new emergency spending bill to keep the state solvent, drawing angry responses from union bosses.

The emergency spending would take effect next week if the Legislature and governor reach no agreement on a budget, which was due April 1. The state faces a $9.2 billion deficit in its ongoing fiscal crisis.

Paterson already has excluded state funding on hundreds of construction projects, delayed $2.1 billion in school aid, delayed income tax refunds and aid to nonprofit groups, and kept some park facilities such as restrooms closed to help the state pay its bills.

He said the bare-bones spending will save the state millions and force savings needed to address the deficit.

The emergency spending bill is subject to an all-or-nothing vote and legislative rejection could bring state government to a halt.

Still, union leaders were outraged with his latest proposal.

“Gov. David Paterson’s unilateral delay of a fairly negotiated raise for CSEA-represented state employees is wrong and the governor knows it,” said Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association union. “It is more evidence of his administration’s incompetence.”

Public Employees Federation President Kenneth Brynien said the state federation would hold the governor accountable.

“We will take every action necessary to ensure our members get their negotiated raises,” Brynien said.

Union leaders previously rejected Paterson’s requests for $250 million in concessions to save the state money, and the governor expressed dismay Thursday to their reaction to his latest plan.

“I don’t know how many times I have to say that we are out of money before people understand they are going to have to make some sacrifices in this period of time,” the governor said. “I am just shocked and amazed that every time you ask the special interests or the unions for some kind of sacrifice that their answer is either ‘no,’ or, ‘I’m going to sue you.’ ”

Still, a growing number of rank-and-file members of teachers unions have volunteered to reopen their contracts to concessions. A unionized Binghamton University professor called on fellow public union workers to forgo 4 percent raises in a time of zero inflation so that friends without jobs or facing cutbacks don’t have to pay for public workers’ raises.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, after meeting privately with Paterson Thursday, said there’s little the Legislature can do to amend the emergency spending bill to restore the raises. The raises were to begin with the April 22 paychecks.

“I can’t point to specific progress,” he said.

Silver said if the Legislature tried to pass its own emergency spending bill that included the raises, the delay could disrupt paychecks to workers and Medicaid care for the poor.

The raises could be restored in an adopted budget or in subsequent emergency spending if revenues can cover the cost.

Senate Democratic leader John Sampson refused to say if he supports delaying the 4 percent raises. He said workers are entitled to the raise but he refused to say if he opposes the governor’s plan.

Sampson also would not divulge the additional revenue sources he said he has come up with to help fund the budget. On Wednesday he promised to release the details when pressed by reporters on whether any work was done on the budget during the Legislature’s 11-day vacation.

“I have sent my members back to the table to find new cuts before I come out with the additional revenues,” he said Thursday.

Lawmakers traditionally haven’t tried to block a governor’s temporary spending bills when a budget is late, but Paterson isn’t sending lawmakers the typical temporary continuation of the previous year’s budget. Instead, he is asking for authorization only for what he considers essential spending and other expenses required by law, including worker salaries and Medicaid.

Categories: Schenectady County

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