WBTA's Dan Fischer reports this morning that Gov. David Paterson will "deliver an unprecedented special address" to announce that the state is in the worst fiscal crisis in three decades. The announcement is expected sometime this week, and the New York Post claims that Paterson will cite "plunging state revenues" as the reason for the crisis and the forthcoming cuts in state services and personnel.
He may also call a special session of the Legislature to propose reducing some of the record-high levels of spending that were approved as part of the state's new budget in April.
"The situation is worse than anyone realizes," said a source close to Paterson.
"The governor has said he's tired of the state going from deficit to deficit, spending like it has a credit card that never has to be paid, and that he's prepared to take action," the source said.
In the meantime, the New York Times reported earlier this year that state legislators were hankering after a 20 percent pay raise.
New York legislators are looking for a raise of as much as 22 percent, saying the $79,500 base salaries they earn are not enough.
But an examination of state records shows that most make considerably more than their base salary. With extra pay for chairmanships and other posts, they earn just over $90,000, on average, for what is widely considered a part-time job; the Legislature is in regular session for 63 days a year.
And more than a third earn more from outside employment, often as lawyers in their hometowns, but they are not required to disclose how much or from what clients.
Not long after, the New York Sun reported that state judges, now, were asking for a raise.
A state judge has ordered Governor Paterson and the Legislature to start paying him and his 1,180 fellow state jurists more money.
If each judge on the state bench received the $600,000 sought by the four plaintiffs, the state's taxpayers would be on the hook for more than $700 million. The order by Judge Edward Lehner of state Supreme Court in Manhattan appears to instruct the Senate and Assembly to pass a law upping judges' pay within 90 days, which could prove an impossibly fast time frame for slow-moving Albany.
What prompted the request?
Judges on the state's main trial court make $136,700 a year, plus benefits.
Even though salaries for New York state judges are close to the national average, the judges say that the cost of living in New York is higher, and they argue that federal judges and corporate lawyers are paid more.
New York's chief judge, Judith Kaye, filed a suit on behalf of the entire judiciary in April seeking a pay raise order of the type Judge Lehner issued yesterday. But yesterday's decision came in an earlier lawsuit filed jointly by four judges seeking more than $600,000 each. That money, the say, represents the cost-of-living increases that they haven't received over the years, plus interest.
As for your run-of-the-mill hourly worker, the median income in 2007 was about $25,000, and an employee who made no more than the minimum wage — $7.15 per hour — earned less than $15,000 and likely brought home barely more than $10,000.
The median wage paid to the 4.1 million hourly workers in the state was $12.03 last year, meaning that more than two million New Yorkers earned less than that, the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed. That was about equal to the median national hourly wage of $11.95 — about $25,000 a year for a 40-hour work week.
See the article by Patrick McGeehan in the New York Times for the full story.