Friday, May 28, 2010

Judge Blocks New York Furlough Attempt

New York faces a multibillion dollar deficit and doesn't have cash on hand to pay its bills, but a federal judge has found that Gov. Paterson cannot impose the furloughs claiming that it would violate the federal contracts clause.
Although the injunction is far from the final decision in the case, many of Kahn’s observations suggest that Paterson’s legal team face a significant challenge as they argue that the furlough plan is a “reasonable and necessary” tactic in a time of grave fiscal peril which justified the impairment of a previously negotiated contract.

Kahn suggested that the Senate’s decision to pass a resolution objecting to the furlough plan — which it was forced to vote for in Paterson’s fifth budget extender or force a government shutdown — indicated that the plan failed to meet the “reasonable and necessary” threshold.

“ … The Court observes both a complete repudiation of such a judgment and an argument by (the Paterson administration) that fails to show sufficient consideration and analysis of the kind required by the Contract Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, the ruling states.

The judge found that Paterson’s citation of the budget crisis and his other attempts to alleviate it do not in and of themselves justify breaking a contract, and said that to allow such an impairment the defendants would have to demonstrate a greater effort to find less harmful alternatives.

In a statement, Paterson expressed disappointment at the ruling, but continued to make his case for concessions by the unions. In his executive budget proposal submitted in January, Paterson booked $250 million in to-be-negotiated workforce savings, which unions have so far refused to grant.
New York's fiscal situation is a disaster, and without the furloughs, the other option is layoffs - lots of them.

That's what the union wants. That's what they should get - and then start imposing a 4-day work week going forward when the new contracts are up. Shaving a day off from the state work week will save hundreds of millions each year, and can help balance a budget that is billions in the hole.

Moreover, the judge is delving in to the realm of a political question, which is something that the courts should not be addressing. There were political machinations behind the Senate taking the action it did on furloughs - to give political cover to others in the legislature, and had nothing to do with the appropriateness of the furlough program. Grandstanding and bloviating by the unions and their supporters wont close the budget gap. Stemming the flow of state spending will.

The full text of the decision is here:
Furlough Ruling May 28 2010

No comments: