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Gov. David Paterson
Gov. David Paterson

Governor proposes deeper cuts and state-worker furloughs

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Governor David Paterson recommends one-day-a-week furloughs for state workers until the state budget, now nearly one month late, is completed. The governor is also cutting spending and raising revenues by $620 million, and asking the legislature to act immediately on his budget. Karen DeWitt reports.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent
Governor Paterson says he'll ask the legislature to pass a bill authorizing one day a week furloughs for state workers, as a means of managing the state's negative cash flow. He says he's already asked unions for concessions, including forgoing a 4% pay raise and delaying paychecks by five days, but says union leaders have refused.

Paterson says the state "is facing fiscal and cash crises of unprecedented magnitude," and is "forced to implement difficult actions".

Paterson also wants to save another $620 million dollars, through a combination of cuts and revenue raisers, and is asking the legislature to vote up or down on his entire budget package on Wednesday. If not, Paterson says the legislature should switch to five day work weeks, starting in May, instead of the current Monday through Wednesday schedule.

"I don't think it's appropriate for us to be working only three days right now, with the budget already a month late," said Paterson.

For now, the furlough legislation will be a stand alone bill, and will not be tied to the weekly budget extenders that lawmakers have approved to keep the state running. But the state's budget director, Robert Megna, says very soon, the furloughs may be part of the emergency spending authorization, and the legislature will be left with the choice of approving the work reductions, or risking a complete government shut down.

The $620 million dollars in savings include reductions in programs for the mentally ill, arts and energy research grants, and tuition assistance for students at religious schools. Paterson would also delay the start of a new college student loan program, and cut spending on the state judiciary, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and drug and gambling addiction programs. New revenues include additional taxes on cigarettes, snuff and so-called little cigars, and cutting in half some business tax credits. At the same
time, Paterson recommends cutting tobacco prevention programs.  The
governor also wants to reduce funding for the legislature's pet projects, known as member items, by $50 million dollars, and even put off roof repairs to the State Capitol building.

"These cuts are difficult, they will be painful," said Paterson. "But we were elected to make tough decisions."

Danny Donohue, President of the Civil Service Employees Association,
the largest state worker union, issued a one word response to Paterson's furlough proposal. 

"Nuts," he said.

The President of the Public Employees Federation, Ken Brynien, called Paterson's proposal "illegal", and said it would be breaking the union contract.  

An official with the Senate Democrats, who are in the majority in that chamber, said the Senate was unlikely to consider the governor's budget bills Wednesday, and said Paterson's request might not even be constitutional. The governor is only allowed to amend his budget once, without permission of the legislature, and Paterson already did that back in February. 

Senate Minority Republicans say they support Paterson's call for an immediate budget vote, and are willing to stay in Albany for as long as it takes to get a budget done.

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