Union scores many wins in state budget battles
By SHERRY HALBROOK
After falling short of the goal for 20 years straight, the state Legislature passed budget bills by the April 1 deadline this year to enact most of the state budget.
While the legislators had to go back two weeks later and amend some of their bills to avoid the governor’s veto, PEF members are none the worse for those last-minute changes.
“Overall, we achieved the vast majority of our budget priorities,” said PEF President Roger Benson. “We thank our state leaders for their wisdom and leadership.”
PEF also owes its success, he said, to “our members and staff who worked hard both to educate state lawmakers about our budget issues and to elect legislators who are willing to listen to our concerns and fight for state services.”
• Prisons — Funding was fully restored by state lawmakers for Fulton, Camp Pharsalia, and Camp McGregor correctional facilities, as well as the Watertown and Greene special housing units and the Groveland Annex.
The Legislature passed a measure requiring the state Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) to give 12 months prior notice to local governments, PEF and other state employee unions before closing a correctional facility. The department would also have to come up with a plan for adapting the facility for other uses.
In addition, DOCS will have to report to the Legislature every year on staffing at correctional facilities.
• Middletown PC — The center will close effective April 1, 2006, and all of the projected $7.8 million in savings will be used for state-operated community-based mental-health services for Orange and Sullivan counties. PEF negotiated an agreement on this.
(See related article)
• Transportation — “Design-Build” and “Transportation Facility Development Partnership” programs were rejected. They would have increased the state Transportation Department’s dependence on more costly consultant engineers, expanded the use of no-bid contracts and limited public oversight of the state program to maintain and expand New York’s transportation infrastructure.
The Legislature agreed to place a $2.9 billion Transportation Bond Act on the ballot in November. The Bond Act would spend $1.45 billion for DOT capital projects and $1.45 billion for MTA capital projects. Additional details of the Bond Act may be negotiated and PEF will continue to advocate for an increase in the number of state engineers.
• SUNY Hospitals — Privatizing SUNY hospitals was rejected.
• Parole — Funding was restored for 47 field staff positions in the state Division of Parole. The Legislature also denied a proposal to give the division more time to act on parole-violation warrants for out-of-state-parolees.
• Juvenile justice — Over PEF’s objections, the lawmakers approved closing 115 beds in state Office of Children and Family Services facilities and the likely loss of 98 jobs in the Youth Facilities program.
• Science and Technology — Over PEF’s objections, the Legislature created a new shadow agency, the NYS Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, to replace an existing state agency, the Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research (NYSTAR). This is effective January 31, 2006. Seven PEF members work at NYSTAR.
This was not part of the governor’s original budget proposal, but emerged very late at the joint conference committee.
PEF secured bill language ensuring all current and future employees will be considered public employees under the state Civil Service Law and will maintain their civil service and collective-bargaining rights and bargaining units.
These provisions are similar to the provisions in the “shadow agency” legislation PEF has advocated.
• Agriculture — the state Department of Agriculture & Markets (A&M) will not switch from annual to risk-based inspections of retail food stores, pet dealers and breeders. Funding was restored to preserve 21 inspector positions.
• Nathan Kline — $400,000 was added to fill four research scientist positions at the Nathan Kline Institute.
• Library, Archives, Museum — The Legislature refused to transfer the state Library, Archives and Museum to a proposed new shadow agency.
• VESID transfer — Adult vocational and educational programs for disabled New Yorkers will stay at the state Education Department (SED) and not move to the Labor Department (DOL).
• SED funding — $2 million cut by the governor from state programs at SED was restored.
• Watchdogs merger — The Legislature approved a merger that PEF opposed of the state Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities and the state Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. However, the lawmakers provided for a separate Division of Advocacy and Outreach for Persons with Physical Disabilities within the new agency.
• Workers Comp Board — The Workers Compensation Board will not merge with DOL.
• Welfare to Work — The proposed transfer of the Welfare to Work program from DOL to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) was approved, despite PEF’s opposition.
• Hazard Abatement Board — The state Hazard Abatement Board is preserved and the funding is fully restored.
• Licensing and Inspections — DOL’s licensing and inspection programs will not be merged into a new Worker Protection License Unit.
• PERB — The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the Employment Relations Board (ERB) will not merge. The new fee structure and reporting requirements were not approved.
• Probation — The Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives will not merge with the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
• Civil Service — Funding is provided for moving state Department of Civil Services offices within Albany from the Gov. Alfred E. Harriman State Campus to the Gov. Alfred E. Smith Building downtown.
• Environmental Conservation — State lawmakers rejected creating a new wetlands program and permit fees.
The budget provides $150 million for the Environmental Protection Fund.
For more details, check out the final budget spreadsheets for all NYS agencies posted on
www.pef.org under Budgets, SFY2005 Budget Information.
Communicator May 2005
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