Unlike other states, New York has avoided massive layoffs and furloughs of public employees to close recurring budget gaps. That could change.

Newsday reports:

Gov. David A. Paterson and some lawmakers are raising the specter of furloughs – and even layoffs – of state workers to help close the growing budget deficit, as other big states have done.

“We’ve not had to furlough or lay off any workers, but the means of balancing budgets are becoming less and less available, and everything is on the table,” Paterson said recently.

So far, the governor has put nothing on the table when it comes to closing what had been a $2.1 billion budget gap in July, which he now pegs at $3 billion. Back in July, Paterson promised he would propose a “Program to Eliminate the Gap” (PEG) by early fall. As E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center writes:

It’s early fall — so where’s the PEG? How much, specifically, should the Legislature reduce school aid?

How about forcing action, for once, on Medicaid? And what’s happened to the promised cost-saving reforms to New York’s unaffordably generous public pensions?

Paterson keeps talking about the need for reductions, but has yet to publicly propose any. Instead, he’s been squandering precious time, claiming he would prefer to reach some budgetary consensus with the nation’s most discredited and dysfunctional Legislature.

Instead of layoffs and furloughs, New York has cut personnel costs through attrition, not filling vacant positions and a $20,000 buyout incentive offered to members of two public employee unions.

Just over 1,000 employees have been approved for the buyout, significantly fewer than the 4,500 expected by the Paterson administration. State agencies were reluctant to offer more buyouts, because they could not hire replacement workers. According to the Public Employees Federation, 400 members applied for a buyout, but were rejected.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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