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42° Good Afternoon

EDITORIAL: Paterson's layoff threat is toothless

So, let's get this straight. Gov. David A. Paterson, whose term ends at the close of the year, is proposing to lay off state workers beginning Jan. 1, 2011. On that day, someone else will become governor - someone who might not want to live with Paterson's plan. This is like threatening the kids that Dad will punish them when he gets home.

The governor's empty threat demonstrates just how little power he has to run New York State in this time of crisis. Unfortunately, New York is right there with him, seemingly powerless to emerge from a $9.2-billion deficit. A budget agreement is nearly nine weeks overdue.

Paterson is in this position because he promised state worker unions that he wouldn't implement layoffs through 2010, a pledge made in exchange for pension concessions from future employees. But future concessions, while needed, do nothing to help with today's crisis.

A federal judge thwarted the governor's more immediate efforts, to deny 4 percent raises to the state workforce and to temporarily cut the workweek to four days. But Paterson also brought New York to this point by failing to follow through on his word on other cost-cutting measures.

When he decided not to run for election, this page said that freed him to make the tough but unpopular decisions the state needs. So far, all we're hearing are unworkable ideas. hN