Three–no, make that four–members of the Assembly have called on unionized teachers to forego $1 billion in scheduled pay raises to avoid massive layoffs and property tax increases.

Forgetaboutit, responds Richard Iannuzzi. Instead the president of NYS United Teachers (NYSUT) says the legislators should hike state taxes.

In their letter to Iannuzzi, Assembly members Sam Hoyt (Buffalo), Michael Benjamin (Bronx), Ginny Fields (Suffolk County) and Sandra Galef (Westchester County), all Democrats, wrote “Teachers must be part of the solution if New York is to address the long term challenges it faces” (here).

We therefore urge NYSUT and its local affiliates to assist school districts in meeting their funding challenges by considering the voluntary postponement of scheduled base and step pay increases for the 2010-11 budget year. We estimate that this action would save our school districts just over $1 billion, thereby nearly canceling the worst impacts of the proposed budget cuts.

This solution alone will help districts avoid draconian lay-offs, keep vital services in place for our children and protect programs that do so much to make our students well-rounded individuals.

Hoyt told the Buffalo News a voluntary freeze would avoid thousands of layoffs (here).

“Organized labor has traditionally had a mantra of injury to one, injury to all. And the prospect of over 10,000 layoffs, if you accept what David Paterson and the State Senate have proposed, would be a tragedy–and it’s avoidable,” Hoyt said.

The New York Times blog “City Room” quotes Iannuzzi as rejecting wholesale salary freezes (here).

While some local unions may negotiate such postponements, Mr. Iannuzzi said, teachers had already sacrificed enough; more than 5,000 were laid off last year. A better option, he said, would be tax increases to raise more revenue, in combination with some spending cuts and some salary bargaining at the local level.

Meanwhile, there is growing interest among legislators in some kind of voluntary or statutory pay freeze for public employees. Assemblyman Joseph Morrelle, a Rochester Democrat, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (here):

“…public employees should voluntarily forego contractual raises over the next two years to lessen the burden on taxpayers. Those in government service deserve adequate compensation, but it must be comparable to those in the private sector, where job losses are much more common than pay increases.”

Other Rochester-area legislators have expressed support for salary freezes, furloughs or other union givebacks to close budget gaps on the state and local level. Among them: Assemblymen Joseph Errigo, David Gantt, Steve Hawley, Brian Kolb, Joseph and Robert Oaks (here).

On Sunday, the Democrat & Chronicle called for a freeze on wage increases for state government employees (here).

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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