The Empire Center for Public Policy, a pro-business “think tank,” has come up with a list of thirty proposed spending cuts designed to save the cash-strapped state $30 billion over three years.

Among the proposals, a 7.5% cut in school aid accompanied by a lifting of state mandates on local school districts that the center says will help them cope with the cuts. Also, big cuts in New York’s Medicaid system, the most expensive in the nation.

But the most controversial of the recommendations from the Empire Center: that Governor Paterson and the Legislature declare a fiscal “emergency” and block the 4% raises that are due state employees on April 1st under their collective bargaining contract.

E.J. McMahon, the executive director of the Empire Center, says this is better than having to lay off tens of thousands of public employees. But CSEA, the largest of the public unions, says “a contract is a contract.”

CSEA says there will be no givebacks during the current contract year, but a spokesman says the union will begin bargaining on a new labor agreement on April first with the state’s fiscal crisis in mind.

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