Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New York Approves Furloughs In Interim Budgets

New York continues to limp along without a fiscal year 2010-2011 budget in place, and has resorted to passing interim budgets to pay the bills. The latest such interim bill included what state workers consider to be a controversial furlough, that requires that state workers go unpaid one day a week.
Mr. Paterson announced last week that he would pursue the furloughs after the unions refused other concessions to save the state money, like giving up a 4 percent raise or delaying employees’ paychecks by several days. The one-day furlough is expected to save the state about $30 million, and the governor has said he would seek additional furloughs every week until the Legislature reaches a deal with him on the state budget, which is now nearly six weeks late.

The furloughs will exclude most public safety and health workers like State Police troopers, correction officers and nurses.

“I recognize that these furloughs represent a difficult sacrifice for many of the state’s public employees,” Mr. Paterson said in a statement issued moments after the final vote. “That sacrifice is only necessary because their union leadership has rejected all other reasonable attempts at compromise.”

“In the days ahead,” he added, “the special interests will use every tool at their disposal to try and prevent me from doing what is necessary to put our state’s fiscal house in order. My only objective is to help New York turn the corner on this fiscal crisis, and that goal guides every decision I make as governor.”

Many legislators expressed their anguish during debate about having to choose between furloughs or a government shutdown. And Republicans attacked Democrats, who control both chambers, for failing to close a budget deal.

The Senate unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution sponsored by Neil D. Breslin, a Democrat from the Albany area, that declared the furloughs illegal and asked Mr. Paterson to resubmit his emergency bill without the furlough language. The governor, who is also a Democrat, had said he would refuse to do so.

“This is a unilateral decision by the governor to force us to vote against the extender bill,” Senator Breslin said. “If we voted against that extender bill and it failed, everyone would be without health insurance. Motor vehicle departments would be closed down.”

The measure passed in both chambers along party lines. The Senate vote was 32 to 29, with all Republicans voting against the bill, and the Assembly voted 82 to 56, with some Democrats joining the Republicans in opposition.
By shutting down for one day a week, the state saves $30 million for each week the furlough is in place. With the state facing multibillion dollar budget deficits, this is a start, especially should the state contemplate moving to a 4-day workweek for state workers. Other states have already implemented furloughs or 4-day work weeks, in order to spare workers layoffs and restrict spending, but New York's workers are resisting any efforts to curb spending.

The state is out of money, and yet the unions and state workers are wagging the dog on this. They're the ones that are dictating and making demands on the legislature to continue funding as they always have, even though the state simply has no more money and can't continue funding at existing levels.

The sad fact is that the size of the state workforce has to be cut, and the choice is either layoffs or furloughs. At least with furloughs, workers get to continue getting paid, while the layoffs would result in much more grief.

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