Gov. David Paterson, who has nothing to lose politically, is apparently going to follow through on his threat to furlough roughly 100,000 unionized state workers if the Legislature won’t come to terms on a budget by the end of next week. Bravo for him.
It’s not that we like seeing workers used as pawns in the budget battle — and that’s clearly what’s going on, even if their refusal to accept some concessions makes them at least partly responsible for the state’s fiscal mess. It’s that we’re fed up with state lawmakers’ lackadaisical approach to the crisis, and if this doesn’t spur them into action, what will?
Given the seriousness of the situation — a $9.2 billion-dollar deficit — it’s unconscionable that lawmakers didn’t bite the bullet and do the budget on time this year. Granted, they’ve behaved in similar, reckless fashion in the past, but the situation is graver than usual and Gov. Paterson, to his credit, has been less willing to tolerate the stalemate than other governors. He’s turned up the heat on lawmakers by suspending state workers’ raises and withholding payments for capital projects, yet it has had no effect (except to get people mad at him).
Now he wants to up the ante by forcing workers to stay home one day per week (saving the state $30 million). It may not even be legal, but rather than waste time and money slugging it out in court, why doesn’t the Legislature just give him what he wants — what they were lawfully required to give him five weeks ago?