Cuomo expected to propose wage freeze, cap

New York's new Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, with

New York's new Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, with his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, and Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, center, in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Albany. (Jan. 2, 2011) (Credit: AP )

ALBANY - Seeking to close the $9.3-billion budget deficit, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to propose a wage freeze for state workers and a cap on state spending in Wednesday's State of the State speech, sources said Sunday night.

The wage freeze would likely only be for one year and must be negotiated with state employee unions, many of whose contracts expire April 1, according to a Cuomo campaign book. The sources said the proposed freeze would impact about 130,000 workers at state agencies under Cuomo's control.

Holding the line on workers' pay is one component of the "emergency financial plan" that Cuomo outlined in May when he launched his gubernatorial bid. Other elements include the spending cap, no increases in state taxes and a 2-percent cap on yearly hikes in property taxes by school districts and other local governments.

"The 'emergency financial reinvention plan' that the governor says he will include in the State of the State hews closely to what was in his campaign books," said one source familiar with Cuomo's plans.

Asked about the proposals Sunday, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said, "Any speculation about the speech's contents is premature." Cuomo will deliver the speech at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Albany Convention Center before about 2,500 people, including 1,000 members of the public.

The wage freeze will likely be fought by the Civil Service Employees Association and Public Employees Federation, two of the most powerful unions. CSEA didn't back Cuomo for governor, while PEF did.

Cuomo also is expected to receive pushback to capping state spending at the inflation rate. The cap could be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature, according to the campaign book.

Separately Sunday, Cuomo ordered his aides and top agency officials to complete ethics training by April 1. Workshops have been offered by the state Public Integrity Commission for years, but were not made mandatory until Sunday.

About 300 people will be affected by the new directive, which also stipulated that training occur every two years. A certificate must go into the staffer's personnel file upon completion of the workshop.

Cuomo said, "Top government employees should have no questions, no gray areas and no possibility of confusion regarding what is proper and what is not."

The move comes after a spate of investigations by the commission and Cuomo, when he was state attorney general, of aides to then-Govs. David A. Paterson and Eliot Spitzer.

Commission spokesman Walter Ayres said it already provides ethics training to nearly 10,000 state workers per year.

In the legislature, the Assembly stipulates that its 150 members and their staff undergo training every two years to prevent ethics violations, sexual harassment and workplace violence, according to Sisa Moyo, a spokeswoman for Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Scott Reif, an aide to State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the presumptive majority leader, said all 62 members and staff "are expected to understand and follow certain procedures related to legislative ethics and sign a formal document acknowledging such."

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