If lawmakers reject a separate bill furloughing 100,000 state workers for one day during the week of May 10, Governor David Paterson is prepared to package the measure as part of a budget extender bill, forcing legislators to risk shutting down state government.

“Administration officials said while the governor had no hard plans to put the furlough into next week’s extender, the option is being seriously considered,” the Times Union reports.

In a morning radio interview, Paterson defended his furlough strategy against criticism that if violates union contracts (here).

“I don’t think that it does, because we haven’t gotten a budget yet. So during the time that we have no budget, the resources are technically not available to pay anybody, and therefore –what we’re just asking for during this time is a sacrifice from somebody so we can get through this period, but what we keep hearing is no. And if we don’t hear any alternative solutions, and so I don’t see any reason why the legislature shouldn’t work five days a week, why we shouldn’t furlough the workers one day a week until we pass the budget….

The state’s fiscal year began April 1. Citing cash flow problems, Paterson is withholding scheduled 4 percent raises for Executive Branch employees until the budget passes. He has cancelled raises for 12,000 nonunionized employees.

The state’s budget gap exceeds $9 billion. In January, he called on public employee unions to agree to $250 million in contract givebacks, which union leadership has rejected. Paterson in June 2009 agreed not to lay off members of the state’s two largest unions before his term expires December 31, 2010 (here).

On Tuesday, Paterson proposed a “stand-alone” furlough bill that would affect roughly 100,000 state workers directly under the governor’s control for one day during the week of May 10. The bill exempts health and safety workers. The measure is estimated to save $30 million a week (here for link to bill text and here for bill memo).

Reactions ranged from “Nuts” from Civil Service Employees Association President Danny Donohue to skepticism about its legality from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (here).

“If he doesn’t have the authority on the furloughs, the Legislature doesn’t have the authority either to give to him,” said Silver, who noted California state workers had sued to win back pay for their unpaid days off.

On Wednesday, Paterson signaled that he may make the one-day furlough part of an emergency budget extender he will introduce next week. He issued what is described as “no-win dare to state lawmakers” (here).

Give him the power to furlough state workers or risk shutting down the government. “Nobody seems to want to do anything except point the finger in a different direction, and I’m going to stop it,” Paterson said. “That will require some tough decision-making on my part, and also on the part of the Legislature.”

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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