Wednesday, May 12, 2010

While State Imposes Furloughs, State Workers; Paterson's Staff Gets Raises?

Incompetence and stupidity are all par for the course in Albany these days, and the austerity measures to help close the budget deficit aren't helped when Gov. Paterson allows such tone deaf actions as providing raises to his staff.
Gov. Paterson was criticized for granting pay raises to office staffers on Tuesday, a day after the Legislature approved a harsh furlough plan for state workers.

Three of the five staffers are getting five-figure wage hikes.

The governor's office identified four pressroom staffers and their salaries as:

- Jessica Bassett, to $75,000 from $65,000.

- Anna Adams-Sarthou, to $45,000 from $35,000.

- Melanie Hartgraves, to $45,000 from $38,000.

- Margaret-Kelly McKeon, to $75,000 from $65,000.

A fifth, nonpress staffer in the New York City office, Elizabeth Banner, got bumped to $60,000 from $55,000.

Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook insisted the raises went to staffers who took on "substantially more responsibility" after four key aides left amid a probe by the state attorney general's office.

Even with the pay raises, the press shop payroll dropped by more than $300,000, Hook said.
But don't think that Gov. Paterson's staffers are alone in getting raises. They're not. More than 5,000 state workers got raises. These are workers who are not in unions and therefore got step raises.

Sorry, but given the sorry fiscal shape of the state, no one in the state workforce should have gotten raises. Moreover, the union workers will still receive their raises this year - they're only being delayed until a full fiscal year budget is adopted.

This is the kind of insanity that helped get the state into the fiscal mess it's in now. People think that if they can trim around the edges somewhere else, they can save raises for themselves, their staffers, or pet projects, and what happens is that over time everyone's pet projects get increased funding and no one has the capacity to pay for it without massive tax hikes.

What people in Albany do not comprehend is that the state doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. Cut spending, and not only will revenues pick up, but the state's budget woes will improve. Moreover, curbing spending increases to less than the rate of inflation while engaging in far more conservative estimation methods for rates of returns on pension fund investments and other revenue sources will mean that the state will be forced to properly fund those obligations and will further restrain the growth of the state budget.

Gov. Paterson's actions here have resulted in frittering away what's left of his tattered political capital because he was right to employ furloughs to potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars this year (and still more if done going forward).

Too little, too late. Gov. Paterson has rescinded the raises for his staffers, but that still leaves thousands others receiving their raises despite the furloughs, and even those who are subject to furloughs will see their raises once the state passes its fiscal year budget.

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