Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just announced a tentative contract agreement with one of the state’s smaller unions, including some potentially significant labor concessions that could set a pattern for achieving the $450 million in workforce savings assumed in the new state budget.

Based on the governor’s press release, key aspects of the deal with Law Enforcement Council 82 include the following:

  • a three-year pay freeze on pay, including longevity step increments;
  • an increase in employee share of health insurance premiums, from 10 percent to 20 percent for individual coverage, and from 25 percent to 35 percent for family coverage;
  • new co-pays for hospital services and medical visits, and encouragement of mail-order prescription drug refills;
  • a reduction in the amount of sick time that can be credited to health insurance for retired employees; and
  • exclusion of sick days from accrual of time worked for purposes of qualifying for overtime compensation.

Council 82 had been one of the few remaining holdouts from the 2007-11 state contract cycle, when major unions including CSEA and PEF agreed to base pay hikes of 14 percent, plus some extras.  As reward for their concessions going forward, Council 82 members will retroactively get the same settlement for that period.

Council 82 is a relatively small union, covering 1,160 State University police, Park Police, Department of Environmental Conservation Officers and Forest Rangers. If other state unions make the same concessions, what the governor projects as “system-wide” savings would add up to $430 million — including $178 million for the increase in health insurance premiums, $196 million from the change sin co-pays and prescription drug refill, $45 million from the change in sick-leave credit and $11 million from the overtime reform. At least it would appear that way, assuming the term “system-wide” is translated to mean “if the same changes applied to the entire state workforce.” Indeed, on a statewide basis, a freeze on step increments would save another $140 million a year for as long as it lasts.

A key unanswered question: State labor contracts usually have a duration of four years, but the governor’s news release describes a pay freeze that lasts for three years.  So what’s the term of the Council 82 deal? Any back-loaded goodies in there?  ** UPDATE: A journalistic source quotes the governor’s office as saying it’s a three-year contract. That’s another big plus for Cuomo — because if steps aren’t included in the agreement when it expires, there will be no Triborough effect. **

The health insurance savings seem genuinely significant, with those “system-wide” numbers amounting to a 19 percent savings for taxpayers in this category (i.e., premiums for active employees). The sick leave credit is less impressive, amounting to just over 3 percent of the $1.3 billion the state will spend on retiree health care in 2011-12. However, the governor has more running room on this, since unions in the past have agreed to study the possibility of changing the eligibility guidelines for retiree health care.

The missing details will determine whether, on balance, this a major breakthrough. Based on what’s been released so far, it may be a promising pattern.

P.S. — Anonymous commentator “Park Cop” (#5 below) points out an error in my original post: Council 82 was not a holdout in the 2007-11 contract round, but had been without a contract since 2005.  There’s obviously a longer back-story here.  No doubt an interesting one.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is the Empire Center’s founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Cuomo Administration Ducks Important Questions on Nursing Homes

A new report from the state Health Department tries to deflect blame for thousands of coronavirus deaths in the state's nursing homes – but undermines its own case by withholding data and engaging in tendentious analysis. Read More

Nursing Home Vacancy Rate Soars, Hinting at a Higher Coronavirus Toll

The vacancy rate in New York's nursing homes has more than doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that the death toll among residents may be thousands higher than officially reported. Read More

Big Apple Pols Have Played Both Sides in NYPD Fight

New York City’s police department has come under criticism in recent days, with some city officials saying NYPD funding should be reduced. But many of the same New York City Council members Read More

Hospitalization rising in some areas

Coronavirus hospitalizations are surging in parts of upstate, including three regions that the Cuomo administration authorized to begin reopening today. Read More

Essential Plan surplus hits $3B

As Governor Cuomo pleads for financial help from Washington, one of his state's programs is sitting on $3 billion in unspent federal aid: the Essential Plan. Read More

More fiscal turmoil for Medicaid

In a sign of pandemic-related strain on state finances, the Cuomo administration is postponing a series of multi-billion-dollar Medicaid payments over the next three months. Read More

Upstate escapes the worst

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting some parts of New York much harder than others, Governor Cuomo has signaled that he will begin to relax shutdown restrictions in low-virus parts of the state. Here's a closer look at how infection and fatality rates vary from region to region. Read More

Another Medicaid payment delay

State Medicaid spending dropped to nearly zero in March as the Cuomo administration again delayed payments to balance the state's books. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's cash report for March, posted on Wednesday, showed just $9.2 million in Medicaid disbursements. The state's share of Medicaid spending averages almost $2 billion per month. The comptroller's numbers reflect so-called Department of Health Medicaid, which covers the bulk of the program but excludes most spending on recipients with mental disabilities. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.