PEF to Paterson: We gave at the office
By KENNETH BRYNIEN
In November, the governor announced proposals to address the
state’s fiscal crisis and eliminate the deficit for the current year as well
as next year.
Among those proposals were four that would affect PEF members, including
reopening the state’s collective bargaining agreement to eliminate the April
2009 salary increase to defer five days’ worth of salary. The governor also
proposed modifying state retirees’ contributions for health care based on
years of service and requiring state employees and retirees to contribute to
the Medicare Part B premiums.
I will restate PEF’s position regarding the budget – We will fight to
protect the job security of our members. We will not reopen contract
negotiations, and we will fight legislation that would change contributions
to retirees’ health care and require payment for Medicare Part B premiums.
Our opposition to givebacks has been portrayed by some as selfishness and an
unwillingness to share the burden of the state’s fiscal crisis. The truth is
we are already shouldering nearly $1.2 billion of the $1.6 billion in cuts
already implemented, facing a hiring freeze and doing more with less.
Though the proposals appear modest considering the magnitude of the deficit,
they are painful and costly to our members. They entail long-term
ramifications that few consider; just the elimination of the April 2009 pay
raise would cost our members on average nearly $70,000 in salary over their
30-year career. Add in the long term costs of the other proposals and the
potential impact nears $80,000.
We have offered ways to cut spending and increase revenue for the state by
more than $10 billion without severe cuts to state services. There are ways
to further increase savings using existing contract language by doing such
things as increasing incentives for voluntary reduction in work schedules
(VRWS), expanding programs such as the Over40 Comp pilot program that allows
members to bank overtime payments, just to name a few.
We remain prepared to work with the governor, to continue offering
suggestions to reduce costs and are willing to share the state’s fiscal
burden. However, before the governor proposes any more cuts to the state
work force and the vital services we provide, we will demand the elimination
of wasteful contracting out and extravagant spending, and call for increased
revenue through taxes on those most able to afford it.
We were there, when the Legislature was in session last month, to make sure
our message regarding budget cuts was heard, and we will be there January
7th when the new legislative session begins. We will continue to take this
message to the streets and will need your support to make sure the governor
understands he has better options for closing the state’s budget deficit.
Talking Savings — Ken Brynien is interviewed about
his testimony at an Assembly hearing on budget cuts in Albany Nov. 13.
Brynien emphasized that cutting the use of private consultants would save
the state millions. — Photo by Darcy Wells