With much of New York’s economy shut down and millions of taxpayers likely to depend on federal “emergency support” payments to make it through, an immediate pay freeze for all state and local government employees is a must.

We know it’s a bitter pill for those workers, especially the front-line ones still on the job in public, despite the risks. But it’s less of a loss than that faced by those now out of work — and other private-sector folks who will likely face pay cuts even if they keep their jobs.

As E.J. McMahon noted in Saturday’s Post, such a freeze is entirely legal in a crisis like this one. Smaller-scale pay freezes hit in response to the 1970s New York City fiscal crisis and more recently in conjunction with setting up the Buffalo and Nassau County control boards.

The soon-to-be passed state budget is the obvious place to codify a temporary freeze, but if the Legislature won’t go along, the governor will have to use his extensive emergency powers.

Taking this action now will make the inevitable budget-slashing to come much easier. And, again, it’s only sharing with public workers the pain felt by private ones. Indeed, it will also save some public-sector jobs.

McMahon calculates that the combined savings for every level of government will total at least $1.9 billion in the next year. That’s only a fraction of the $7 billion-plus hole the crisis is likely to open in the state budget, to say nothing of the deficits that localities must close. (The city’s looking at a surprise hole of at least $3 billion.)

President Trump, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and others have all spoken of the need to put government on a “war footing.” This is another part of it.

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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.