ALBANY - Citing a probable new budget deficit, Gov. David A. Paterson Monday again called for laying off an undetermined number of state employees before year's end.
Officials will begin next month to devise a layoff plan, he said, once they know how many workers are participating in an early retirement offer. Between 3,000 and 6,000 are expected to retire from a workforce of 194,700, according to Paterson's budget office.
The last widespread layoffs occurred in the mid-1990s under Gov. George Pataki.
Paterson first raised the issue in early 2009 in hopes of winning concessions from the state employee unions. He eventually secured backing from the two largest for a buyout program and less-generous retirement benefits for new hires in return for a no-layoffs pledge through this year.
"I think the planning for layoffs is going to have to begin immediately," Paterson said at a tee-ball game here between boys from Nassau County and Albany. Layoffs are "the only way we're going to be able to balance the budget."
He did not know how many workers would be impacted.
The governor also blasted union leaders for rejecting a delay of one-week's pay until workers leave the payroll, to forgo this year's 4-percent wage hike and to require one furlough day per week for two months. A judge nixed a furlough plan adopted by lawmakers in May.
Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, shot back: "Talk of layoffs under these circumstances is counterproductive."
Kenneth Brynien of the Public Employees Federation indicated Paterson likely would face a lawsuit. Earlier this year, a State Supreme Court justice blocked the termination of 18 workers at a Queens facility for the developmentally disabled, citing the no-layoffs pledge signed last year.
Paterson is seeking $250 million in concessions to help close the $9.2-billion budget deficit. And he said Monday the red ink likely had swelled by $1 billion because Congress failed to send more Medicaid funds to the states.
He already has voided two raises for management and confidential employees and instituted a hiring freeze in 2008. "I think the failure of the revenues to come back as we predicted, and also the $1 billion that everyone believed was coming . . . We're going to have to ask for a greater sacrifice," he said.
Late Monday, Paterson met privately in Manhattan with leaders of the legislature's Democratic majorities. Each presented alternatives to the governor's proposals for closing the deficit as well as giving SUNY and CUNY freedom to set tuition. Paterson ordered lawmakers to reconvene Wednesday at 6 p.m. to tackle these issues and the budget, which is 118 days late.
Aides to the leaders described the 1 ½-hour meeting as "positive." But a person close to Paterson said, "This wasn't an offer, it was a conversation that wasn't terribly productive."
Only two state budgets in the past 25 years have been in place by the April 1 deadline. Gov. David A. Paterson and lawmakers are hoping not to set a new lateness record.
The top six are:
133 days late
2004-05 budget, under Gov. George Pataki
126 days late
1999-00, under Pataki
126 days late
1997-98, under Pataki
125 days late
2001-02, under Pataki
118 days late(as of today)
2010-11, under Gov. David A. Paterson
104 days late
1996-97, under Pataki
- Compiled by James T. Madore