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Cuomo Repeats Threat to Dismiss 10,000 N.Y. State Workers

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
After promising a wage freeze in his election campaign last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo, seen here, said he would dismiss workers if theres no agreement to produce the labor savings he wants in his $132.9 billion budget. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who produced New York’s first on-time budget in five years last week, is standing by his threat to fire almost 10,000 workers unless they agree to provide the state with $450 million of savings.

Labor contracts that increased state workers’ pay almost 14 percent over four years expired March 31, 10 days after formal negotiations with unions began. Cuomo has said he spoke with labor leaders about his goals before talks started.

“Negotiations are ongoing and obviously if we don’t reach an agreement, we would need to proceed with layoffs,” said Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo, in a telephone interview today.

For now, “we are not implementing any layoffs,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany. “There are several more weeks we have on the calendar where we can have conversations before we come up to the drop-dead point.”

Cuomo, a 53-year-old Democrat, reached agreement with top lawmakers March 27 to close a $10 billion gap in the $132.5 billion budget. The Legislature approved the plan March 31, a day before the start of the fiscal year. Included in the package is a wage freeze on the base pay of about 130,000 workers the governor controls and $450 million in additional labor savings.

Cost cuts sought by Cuomo may come from increasing workers’ share of health-care spending, freezing automatic pay increases based on longevity and changing rules for overtime, Howard Glaser, an adviser to the governor and director of state operations, said at a March 3 legislative hearing in Albany.

‘Back Off’

If there is no agreement with unions, worker dismissals may begin soon after the April 1 start of the fiscal year, he said then. Changing health benefits may produce savings that exceed New York’s goal by a third, Glaser said.

“It would be helpful for them to back off on the layoff threat until we have a chance to have some conversations,” said Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest state workers’ union, which represents about 66,000 employees. “They only began negotiating really two weeks ago.”

U.S. governors face deficits totaling as much as $112 billion in the coming fiscal year, according to the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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