The Cuomo administration is quietly extending a temporary freeze on scheduled pay hikes for about 135,000 unionized state government employees and public college faculty members—although the largest affected labor union says it still expects those bucks to flow retroactively to its members in the coming fiscal year. Based on previous estimates, the retro pay hike will ultimately cost the state a cool $200 million and $300 million, in addition to further raises scheduled to take effect in the coming fiscal year.

First imposed April 1-June 30, and renewed for two three-month periods then, the pay freeze has been extended for another three months, to the end of the current fiscal year on March 31, the Division of the Budget and state comptroller’s office both confirmed today. Under current union contracts, about 65,000 state workers represented by the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), as well as more than 20,000 corrections officers and other smaller employee categories, were due to see their base wages and salaries rise 2 percent when the current fiscal year began April 1.

Also affected by the freeze are 30,000 State University of New York (SUNY) employees, who were scheduled to receive 2 percent raises in July, and more than 20,000 City University of New York (CUNY) faculty due for raises in November. The remaining one-third of state workers, including agency police officers, corrections supervisors, and about 52,000 white-collar workers represented by the Public Employees Federation, are working under expired contracts. State worker unions have generally sought, and won, retroactive pay raises matching those given to other unions.

However, throughout the past nine months, the state has continued paying seniority-based “step” increases, which vary by job title, bargaining unit and hiring date.

The Cuomo administration, normally prone to hyperbole on a wide range of subjects, continues to avoid any pro-active announcements of its policy on employee wages. The latest wage freeze extension as first revealed Monday in a post on the website of Local 1000 of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA):

It is unfortunate that the U.S. Senate has once again stalled and refused to agree to send aid to state and local governments facing severe budget deficits. This lack of aid has caused New York to again delay state worker wage increases that should have been paid last April. Right now, we are told it’s either continue to delay wage increases or layoff workers, and neither is acceptable to CSEA.

Our campaign to keep fighting for this needed aid will continue, until CSEA members are made whole with full retroactive payment of the money they are owed. We continue to pursue our legal challenge through the process. We have to fight even harder to ensure NYS and our localities can get through this pandemic and are not forced to layoff workers who have shown up for work day after day in spite of the risks.

We are going into a difficult [state legislative] budget session. CSEA’s top priority will be to stop any layoffs and get our state workers their raise.

While CSEA blames the (now former) Republican U.S. Senate majority for failing to provide more aid to states and localities, the federal stimulus bill passed by the Senate and House in December and ultimately signed (after a veto threat) by President Trump included at least $4 billion in budget relief to New York State via added school aid, as noted in my op-ed in today’s New York Post.

Cuomo repeatedly (and falsely) has claimed that the state has a $15 billion deficit. The actual figure is considerably smaller; thanks to stronger revenues and the latest stimulus bill, there may be no deficit at all for the current year. Next year is another story, however; the fiscal 2022 budget shortfall is officially projected at $16.7 billion.

Cuomo’s original freeze and its two previous three-month extensions were both grounded in the excuse that the state was waiting for further unrestricted COVID-19 relief aid from the federal government. In other words, the state government’s professed “need” for a federal bailout includes money to pay business-as-usual pay hikes to already well compensated state workers amid a severe post-pandemic recession.

While the governor has provided himself with state budgetary relief via the administrative freeze on wage hikes, he has not made any move to propose a statutory freeze on wage hikes for local governments or school districts. To the contrary, he has added to the stress on cash-strapped New York cities by withholding $37 million in unrestricted state aid to municipalities, even while complaining loudly that New York’s state government should receive billions more than it already receives from Washington.

Unlike Cuomo’s temporary delay in processing pay increases, a statutory freeze such as those imposed on New York City, Nassau County, the city of Buffalo and other distressed localities in past fiscal emergencies, would suspend scheduled increases and make them effective only after the emergency had ended, with no retroactive pay required for the emergency period. This would give the state and local governments and school districts breathing room to adjust to a sharp drop in tax revenues that followed Cuomo’s initial coronavirus shutdown in March.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

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

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

SCOTUS Punts To Biden On Potential Challenge to NY’s Taxing of Work-at-Home Nonresidents

The U.S. Supreme Court today kept alive federal litigation that could cost New York a big chunk of the billions of dollars in taxes it collects from nonresidents working for New York-based employers. Read More

NY Post-Pandemic Employment Tide Stopped Rising At Year’s End

New York's post-pandemic employment recovery came to a halt and moved into reverse in December, according to the state's for the final month of COVID-wracked 2020. Private payroll employment in December was 966,000 jobs below the level of the previous Read More

Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal leaves the Medicaid throttle open

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Governor Cuomo's Medicaid budget is how little it changes the program's spending pattern. In spite of a once-in-century pandemic that rocked the state's health-care system and decimated state revenues, the govern Read More

Emmy-Winning Gov Shows Hollywood More Love

Amid the economic and fiscal fallout of the pandemic, in a proposed FY 2022 budget that would postpone $400 million in scheduled middle-class tax cuts while imposing $1.5 billion in tax-surcharges on millionaire earners, Governor Cuomo is also seeking to Read More

Seeking Bigger Federal Handout, Cuomo Proposes Record Budget

Somewhere within that vast fog bank of a FY 2022 Executive Budget that Governor Cuomo is a structural budget gap, opened during the pandemic recession and temporarily obscured by piles of federal cash that will eventually be gone with the wind. Once a Read More

Amid Cuomo’s Fulminations, New York’s Budget Gap Keeps Shrinking

State tax receipts in the month of December came in $1.4 billion above the latest projection by Governor Cuomo's Division of the Budget (DOB), according to a cash report released late today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office. on the numbers Read More

The State’s Vaccine Appointment System Was Not Ready for Prime Time

The two top priorities Governor Cuomo identified in his State of the State speech Monday morning were "Defeat COVID" and "Vaccinate New York." Read More

A Study in Contrasts: Cuomo’s 2011 and 2021 State of the State Messages

State of the State messages by New York governors customarily lay out general goals and priorities, rather than specifics. Even in general terms, however, there is a striking contrast between Governor Cuomo's latest State of the State and his first annual message to the Legislature, which he delivered five days after taking office 10 years ago. 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.