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No Applause For Gov From State Workers

By Joyce Gramza


Oswego, NY – "We will have a wage freeze for state workers this year, as you know," Governor Cuomo said in his budget address.

He sounded sure, but CSEA President Danny Donohue says a wage freeze is not a given though it will certainly be on the table.

The union's contract expires in April and Donohue says the negotiations are only beginning. He says they'll remind New Yorkers that the jobs mean actual services.

"Those are the services that some people count on. When you're talking about letting go nurses or highway workers or, would you like less snowplows out there today?" Donohue says.

Donohue says cutting jobs at a time when they are so desperately needed would hurt state and local economies.

He says the state operating budget is only 15 percent of the budget, and adds that in recent years, what he calls "quiet layoffs" -- in the form of early retirements and attrition-- have reduced the state workforce to its lowest level in years.

Donohue says the unions will suggest better places the state can find money.

"We're willing to sit down with the governor and try to find the best ways to save and most effective ways to make government work," he says.

But we don't think giving millionaires a tax break at the end of the year when the millionaire's tax is supposed to sunset-- all right, this year the state is saying it's only a billion dollars-- and I laugh about only' a billion. But next year it will be five billion dollars if they let it sunset. Now, as the governor pointed out, the math doesn't make sense here in Albany. Well, I don't understand why you would let five billion dollars disappear. That makes no sense at all in the fiscal crunch you're talking about."

Donohue says it also remains to be seen how the various cuts the governor mentioned would be divvied up.

For example, referring to finding 9800 jobs' worth of savings, Donohue says it's assumed the governor intends to find at least some in cuts to salaries and benefits.

"But at the same time he's talking about a wage freeze across the board for all state workers Now, is he talking about that on top of everything else?" asks Donohue.

And when he talks about consolidating state agencies or closing prisons, are you talking about that on top of those numbers? Those are all questions we're hoping to sit down to the table and talk to him about because, if he is, then there's a different response," he says.

Donohue says that contrary to "popular myths," CSEA members pay three percent into their pensions and as much as 26 percent for family health insurance plans.

He says the union's 365,000 members are taxpayers too.

"We recognize the state's in trouble and we want to do our bit. But we want to do it as equals in this fight," Donohue says.

"If the governor gives us that respect and works with us we'll work with him. If he just wants to try to pass it off and as he puts it, do the same old albany two-step, then we'll he here to dance with him but we dance hard."

As for whether the budget will get passed on time?
"I'm not betting on that one either," he laughs.

Governor Cuomo posted a budget message to New Yorkers today on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w3Fp0u9EHI