ALBANY - Seeking to turn up the pressure on lawmakers to adopt a budget, Gov. David A. Paterson yesterday announced plans to delay a 4-percent wage increase due to 120,000 unionized state employees.
The raise postponement, the first in modern state history, was included in emergency spending bills submitted to the legislature. Lawmakers are expected to adopt them on Monday to keep state government operating through April 18.
"The delay is because we don't have the resources to pay them right now," Paterson said, adding New York nearly ran out of money twice in the last four months. "They are going to have to make some sacrifices."
Union leaders vowed to take Paterson to court, saying he was violating the terms of their respective contracts. They also oppose renegotiating the agreements to eliminate the 4-percent raise. Nonunion state workers have seen their annual raises abolished in the past two years.
"The Paterson administration continues to careen from crisis to crisis without any comprehensive plan to address the state's financial mess," said Danny Donohue of the 300,000-member Civil Service Employees Union.
The raise delay will initially impact about 49,800 workers statewide because the legislation only covers next week. Tens of thousands more would be affected if the budget still isn't in place.
Locally, many of the affected employees care for the developmentally disabled.
Lawmakers decried the proposal but said it would pass because to do otherwise would shut down government. "We have very little recourse," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Paterson and the legislature are far apart on the budget, now nine days late, disagreeing even over whether progress has been made. The governor claims "no movement" has occurred, while State Senate chief John Sampson predicts a deal "within the next week."