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Analysis: Cuomo Expected To Threaten Layoffs

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s firm yet vague threat to lay off thousands of state workers as part of the budget he’ll present Tuesday has employees and their families shaking.

The fear is real. But in Albany, where the fog of politics makes it difficult to even figure out even how many state employees there are, reality is harder to figure out.

Cuomo’s budget will likely include more threats of massive cuts in the work force that he estimates totals about 190,000. The state comptroller’s office says the total is more than 266,000, based on payroll checks. On average, each of the workers costs the state about $98,500 a year in wages and benefits, creating a ripe target to help address a $10 billion deficit.

But some Democratic lawmakers and financial analysts who have done a lot of tours in Albany privately say that history, economic trends and politics could mean far fewer, if any, layoffs by the time the 2011-12 budget is finalized in coming months.

That’s hard to believe after the horror stories relayed by legislators with an apparent wink and nod — but no confirmation — from Cuomo in closed-door meetings this month. Lawmakers emerged saying there could be as many as 15,000 jobs cut across every part of the state.

On Tuesday, Cuomo will present a budget proposal to the Legislature that his aides have breathlessly whispered will have all the cheer of a “Saw” movie.

How much of that presentation will be real, and how much positioning by Cuomo the labor negotiator, will determine whether there is real blood on the podium, or stage blood.

The big difference between the repeated layoff threats by former Gov. David Paterson — about 900 workers eventually were let go on Dec. 31 — and Cuomo is that the public unions’ contracts expire in March. The unions had refused to reopen their collective bargaining agreements for Paterson to address growing deficits.

But unions now are making it clear they want to deal.

Cuomo insists he’s got “a target,” and he can get to that target with or without the unions’ cooperation. But the target isn’t a number of layoffs. It’s a dollar figure that Cuomo says is unsustainable.

That target can, potentially, be hit without a single layoff, especially if the pain is spread beyond the 2011-12 fiscal year, as Assembly Democrats close to the unions are now suggesting.

The 2010 state Workforce Management Report by the Civil Service Department shows that the state could shed as many as 10,700 jobs without one layoff. That’s one year’s attrition.

The report shows there’s room to eliminate far more jobs, as was done in 2002-03, with a modest early retirement incentive. The report also states that 32,000 employees can be expected to retire sometime by the end of 2015 and that by then, 70,335 state employees will be 55 years or older, ripe for early retirement deals.

Then there is the argument over whether layoffs are wise.

The state Labor Department’s latest unemployment report shows that from December 2009 to December 2010, total private sector employment increased 1 percent. But that glimmer of recovery would be greater if the Paterson administration as well as local governments weren’t forced to cut government jobs by 2.3 percent at the same time.

“It doesn’t really help the economy to reduce the size of government,” said Frank Mauro of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute. “Laying off government workers if there are other choices available is going to hurt the economy more.”

State layoffs mean less income tax revenue, reduced local spending by families to fuel sales taxes and other taxes and fees, further cutting government revenues.

“The danger in government layoffs coming at the point in the recession, when the private sector is trying to make traction, trying to balance the budget through government layoffs is going to have effects I don’t think this or other governments want,” Mauro said.

In the 1990s, Republican Gov. George Pataki and former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo each leveraged threats of massive layoffs to extract labor concessions, ultimately laying off a fraction of the number projected.

For all the talk of a shocking budget proposal Tuesday, there’s enough evidence that Gov. Mario Cuomo’s son is following the same strategy. Securing cuts to avoid layoffs would even help the state’s bottom line faster: Because of months of required notices, vacation time and other factors, the state would likely only see half the savings of any cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

So Tuesday’s first act in the governor’s budget won’t be as important as the second act 30 days later. That’s Cuomo’s last chance to amend his budget, one he could end up having to impose if difficult budget negotiations with the Legislature go beyond the April 1 start of the fiscal year.

Cuomo’s 30-day amendments will also come after he gets reports from his task forces seeking billions of dollars in cuts in Medicaid and through agency consolidation. It will also be after union leaders make their first pitch to avoid layoffs.

“They haven’t tipped their hand,” said Stephen A. Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association union. “It’s hard to see if this is just part of a bargaining stance, or something else.”

“When you get to layoffs, its the signal of a failed administration,” he said. “If layoffs are the first thing you’re doing, you’re missing all the options that come before it.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

  • Missy

    It’s time that the NYS taxpayers put the blame of NY State’s financial problems where it belongs. The taxpayers are blind as to what the state inmate population receives at your expense. January 2, 2010 the inmate population for the 67 state prisons was 58,378. The inmates are paid to work in the prison. It cost you approximately $246.00 a year for one inmate. Take that times 58,378 and you will total $14,360,988. Why are these inmates paid? Wouldn’t that money help close the budget gap? Inmate receive dental, medical, which includes specialists and surgery, healthy meals, clothing, counseling, education, drug and alcohol rehab, and care from the Rome Sleep Center for sleep apnea. You the taxpayers are furnishing them with sleep apnea machines. They have basic cable, GED graduation, rent movies. They are allowed to have fund raisers for extras like HBO, Sports, or other cable extras. If they wish to get married, there is a marriage ceremony. There is an inmate liaison committee so they can address various issues. Every so often they can order food out, inwhich a state employee must go and pick up! Do the Superintendents of each state prison need to be given a NYS vehicle to drive back and forth to work? I don’t see them giving up those vehicles to save the jobs of the hard working employees. Why can’t the state sell those state owned mansions that are rented very cheaply to various high ranked state officials? At least they would be back on the property tax roll.

    What about the politicians? They donot contribute to their health insurance or pension fund. Do they really need all of the aides that the employ? I don’t think so. Why are the NYS taxpayers payong one person $125,000 per month to manage the NY Off-Track Betting Co.? It has been in bankruptcy for years now and is a state-run corporation. The NYS DOT contracts out many jobs. Why? It is costly and the DOT workers qre qualified to do that work.

    This is only a small protion of misuse of our tax dollars. I hope NYS taxpayers will take a good look at this and start researching their government spending. Don’t forget, 3 years prior to this contract that is due to expire Marach 31, 2011; CSEA took 0% raises for 3 years to help close the budget gap. Did it do any good? NO! Our State Government continued to enjoy their salaries and perks, while the average worker, state or otherwise, struggled to make ends meet.

  • JGS

    I am a 33 year career NYS Environmental Conservation Officer for NYS DEC. Also a now sick police 1st responder on 911. We have not had a pay raise now for 6years and between our school/property taxes and everything else going up around us, we are barley afloat. Please lay me off and stop this pain. Then I can move out of state sooner!

  • Judy

    Why do they always start with the senior citizen,we haven’t had a cost of living raise in 2 years.Its like you have lived your life,so lets just pick on you,We paid our dues so why pick on us?

  • Cara

    To John, the government worker: Too bad you didn’t pay more attention in school. Maybe you’d be better able to express yourself in the English language. I, am a government worker with lots of that hated seniority. FIFO may not seem fair to you, but all those senior employees have been on the firing line for years – when Cuomo’s daddy was trying desperately to get rid of us, cut our benefits. Pataki, too. You should be thankful for us. We’re the ones that fought for the benefits you enjoy today. New York State has had budget problems for years, lagged paychecks, layoffs. I would wager that most State workers more than earn their pay, and have pitched in many times to help keep the ship of state afloat. Maybe they should clean up government waste before cutting jobs. Albany is a cesspool.

  • Jerry

    Before any announcement of layoffs in the general public, Albany should reduce their salaries much more than 5% and do it across the board.
    Then play by the same rules of health care and Social Security. W/O this forget it happening and look for tremendous more foreclosures as well as tax revolts.

  • edy

    A new Democrat in office is not going to cut jobs to balance a budget. He will just tax the middle class to death…it’s much easier and the Unions get their war , as usual. For those of you who vote a Democrat to office and expect change, you’re not too bright


  • Judy Patuti

    Thats what happens when you vote for a democrat

  • Paul

    Charity Search Engines

  • Nick

    I do believe that you’re the one who stated you voted for Cuomo. Or are you suddenly forgetful?

    • Forrest gum

      Is New yorkers pay enough taxes to feed those guy ? Layoff is painful but we have no choose.

      • John

        Government employees also paying taxes too. You are not the only one!!!!! There are government employees who work hard too, like u do. However, most of the time they are those ‘so-called’ new employees. Those steorotype image general public has about government employees, mostly that come from those ‘old-timers’ (working in government agencies for 15, 20+ years). They are the one who sitting in the office everyday, doing nothing, saying ‘I don’t know how to do it……that’s not part of my job duties’. Those ‘so-called’ out of title work would all go to that ‘new’ coworkers who work hard.
        Unfortunately, when layoff hit government employees, seniority rule applies, that means ‘Last In, First go’! Job performance, efficiency are all out of the question, it doesn’t matter anymore. Those old-timers still wouldn’t be shaked by any layoff ‘rumor’, because they know by heart that they wouldn’t be affected, they will still have their secure job which they don’t deserve. They are like ‘untouchable’. And they would still come to work every single day, and still sitting there doing NOTHING. (Oh…not totally NOTHING….playing solitaire…does it count?) I agree with Bloomberg that this seniority rule needed to be changed. But I doubt that it could be changed.
        By the time you experience layoff, and you will be glad that there are government employees/ agencies available to assist you on getting your unemployment benefit, and if you are fortunate enough, you might have a ‘working’ government employees helping you.
        And Yes, I’m a government employee who are working hard, well-deserved my salary, and I perform much much BETTER and EFFICIENT that my ‘old-timer’ colleagues. But unfortunately, I don’t have that many years of seniority, and I’m one of those that worry every single time when our governor (former or current) saying there will be a layoff!!!!!!!

      • DanTe

        That’s cute “John”. “Government employees pay taxes too”. Basically after they had stole the money from taxpayers, they had to pay part of the ill gotten gains back into the system to steal more money/tax.

  • nathan

    Cue today’s 23rd screed by DanTe…

    • socrates

      Hey Andrew Cuomo how about keeping the millionaire’s tax to generate billions of dollars in revenue and not cut any jobs? How about a billionaires tax to generate even more revenue? How about increasing corporate taxes and cutting taxes for the middle class and poor? How about all these ideas?

    • DanTe

      Awww… how cute “nathan”. Your multiple personalities responding back to each other.

      Does it make you feel less alone in Stupidity Land?

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