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Gov: ‘No Choice’ But To Lay Off State Workers Early

Paterson Blames Situation On Union Not Making Concessions
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New York Gov. David Paterson

Gov. David Paterson (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Going back on a pledge not to layoff state workers before Jan. 1, Gov. David Paterson said Thursday a round of layoffs will begin before the end of 2010 to close New York’s massive budget gap.

As CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman reports, state agencies say the cutbacks are going too far.

It’s always that last question that produces the bombshell: “Why aren’t you calling a spade a spade and talking about the unions in this state?”

And Paterson did not hesitate.

“They have left us no choice. We will probably, in fact, we will lay off workers before the end of the year,” Paterson said.

Patricia Baker is the VP of the Public Employees Federation, which represents 59,000 New York State professional, technical, and scientific employees. The state unions have a written agreement with the governor that he will not lay off workers before Dec. 31.

“We do have an agreement with the governor and we’re gonna hold him to that agreement,” Baker said.

“They have fought and tried to restrain our administration at every turn,” Paterson said.

“We are not people who live in this state and work in this state and do not understand what’s happening. And everything that happens affects us also,” Baker responded.

The governor said the state could save $250 million if more workers took early retirement. But the workers say state agencies are already at bare bones. Research scientist Don Morgenstern is the union rep at Downstate Medical in Brooklyn.

“And God forbid he would lay off nurses in the hospital. That’s something I wouldn’t even want to think about because what that would do to our patients, to healthcare in this community, is something I wouldn’t even want to think about,” Morgenstern said.

“They will blame the layoffs on me, but in their hearts they know their failure to come to the table and give the slightest bit of concession is the reason that we are in the situation we’re in now,” Paterson said.

According to State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli the state actually ended the month of August with more than a half of a million dollars in surplus. But what has happened since Sept. 3 is that there has been a negative cash flow every day and that now the state is broke.

There are 131,000 state employees whom the governor controls directly. However, there are another 163,000 state employees in public authorities like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the power authority, and the state university.

And what control a governor may have over those employees — is not clearly defined.

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