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January 27, 2010 - 7:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, steve hawley, state, snowmobiles.

The governor is out of line, according to Assemblyman Steve Hawley, in planning to shift $1 million from New York's snowmobile program to the state's general fund.

Hawley today issued a statement asking Gov. David Paterson to strike that provision from his proposed 2010-2011 executive budget.

“This proposal to take $1 million away from the Snowmobile Fund is unacceptable and serves as just another example of the State trying to take every penny it can to cover its own fiscal mismanagement,” said Hawley. “This fund is entirely financed and supported by the fees New Yorkers pay to register their snowmobiles. For this reason, the fund should be used solely to maintain and develop snowmobile trails throughout the state.”

Full press release after the jump:

January 20, 2010 - 9:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, state, Gov. David Paterson.

The howls of anger and indignation you heard last night echoing from the Bronx to Buffalo is the reaction from special interests throughout the state to Gov. David Paterson's proposed budget.

While raising taxes $1 billion, the plan also cuts spending $5.5 billion.

You don't cut spending that much without stepping on some toes.

Typical of the "cut everybody but us" reaction was captured by the Albany Times-Union:

"Gov. Paterson is to be commended for his leadership in making the tough choices necessary to address a significant budget gap for the upcoming state fiscal year," said Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. " ... NYCOM, however, strongly objects to proposed cuts in AIM funding, as this program is a key element to controlling municipal property taxes."

Paterson has proposed a series of cuts to local governments, including a 2 to 5 percent cut in Aid and Incentives for Municipalities payments (AIM).  Paterson wants to totally eliminate AIM for New York City.

Locally, Assemblyman Steve Hawley got into the act and spoke up for snowmobilers.

"I was pleased to hear the governor call for a moratorium on land acquisition," Hawley said in a statement. "Yet, raiding one million dollars from the snowmobile fund to balance the budget is an unacceptable infringement on upstate sportsmen.  It was unacceptable last year when the governor proposed it, and it's unacceptable this year."

The Buffalo News reports that legislators, especially Democrats, are reacting harshly to the proposed budget, saying it's already dead.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been splitting more and more from fellow Democrat Paterson, rebuked the governor's cuts, saying they "go too far [and] make life more difficult" for New Yorkers, especially the "most vulnerable and least fortunate citizens."

...

"He's tried to politically pin everything that's wrong with government on us. I don't like it. I don't think any of my colleagues like it," said Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens.

Besides local government and snowmobilers, the budget proposes cuts to education, health care and the environment.

Education spending would be cut from $21.6 billion to $20.5 billion.  The Times-Union got this reaction:

"This budget proposes the largest cut to our children's schools in the history of the state, and yet again asks our children to bear the unbearable burden of balancing the state budget," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Turn to any news site in New York this morning, and you will find unhappy people talking about protecting their own interests.

It will be interesting to see what alternative the Legislature puts forward.

January 19, 2010 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, schools, state.

A legislative roadblock could jeopardize New York’s ability to win a federal lottery of sorts – President Obama is ready to hand out $4.5 billion in education funding to select states that demonstrate a solid plan to improve education.

One of the criteria in Obama's "Race to the Top" competition is a commitment to increasing the number of a state's charter schools. That’s the biggest obstacle the New York Legislature faces in coming up with a winning application.

The state is heading toward a legislative package that increases the cap on charter schools from 200 to 400, but also makes it much harder to get a charter school approved. The Legislature refused to act last night on a compromise bill offered by Gov. David Paterson that would have made another 200 charter schools more likely.

Critics of the legislation – such as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg – have blasted the Legislature for risking New York’s chance at hitting a $700 million jackpot.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Margaret Puzio is not among the critics.

First, she said, charter schools are just one of the criteria in the competition; second, charter schools are not necessarily a great thing for education.

“States may loose points (for not increasing the number of charter schools), but the bigger question is what has the state done in the past and what is it doing in the future to improve failing schools,” Puzio said. "If we have really effective public schools, we would have less need for 400 charter schools."

Charter schools, Puzio indicated, actually detract from the ability of public schools to improve.

“Charter schools are very controversial,” Puzio said. “People say that public schools are a monopoly, that they are controlled by the teachers' union, that they can’t be truly innovative. That’s just not true.”

There have been no attempts to start a charter school in Genesee County, at least as far as Puzio knows, and she's been in the area since 2002.

If there were such a school in the county, it might draw students from not only Batavia, but Elba, Pavilion, Corfu or any part of the county, and the federal dollars for each of those students would follow the students, Puzio said.

That puts public school districts at a disadvantage, Puzio said, because charter schools can be selective in their admission criteria while public schools must take all students.

“Unless they are held to the same standards, it seems unfair to take funds from public schools and give them to charter schools,” Puzio said.

The lack of interest in charter schools in Genesee County is one of the things that indicates local residents are largely satisfied with the quality of the area's public schools, Puzio said.

"My general takeaway is that what happens with school budget votes and what we see in surveys is that the people of Genesee County find our public schools are very responsive to their needs," Puzio said.

January 23, 2009 - 8:04am
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, governor Paterson, Albany, state.

Gov. David Paterson has tapped Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, from Hudson, to fill the junior Senator seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who has taken the post of Secretary of State in the new administration of President Barack Obama. Buffalo News reporter Tom Precious has all the details this morning. Precious calls Gillibrand "a moderate beginning her second term in the House." Gillibrand's office did not return calls for comment from the Buffalo office. Likely, she's a little busy today.

From Gillibrand's Web site:

In her first term in office, Congresswoman Gillibrand established herself as an independent leader in Congress. She was the lead sponsor of legislation that would implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Recommendations, which will help protect our borders and keep America safe. She has been an advocate for decreased federal spending, and introduced legislation that would require the federal government – just as all New York families do - to balance their budget every year. Finally, she has made tax cuts for Upstate and North Country families, one of her highest priorities. She has authored legislation that would double the tax credit for child care expenses and make up to $10,000 in college tuition tax deductible.

Precious reports that Gillibrand was getting the push from both Democrats and Republicans among her constituency, as well as from Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Gillibrand is a member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition in the House. She is known as “Little Hillary” — a nickname conferred by critics who claim she fancies herself the heir to Clinton’s job.

In recent days, gun-control advocates have come out against her because of her opposition to tougher gun laws.

Gillibrand, who also opposed the $700 million bailout of the financial industry, comes from a politically connected Albany family. Her father, Douglas Rutnick, was a lobbyist.

January 21, 2009 - 5:54pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in budget, governor Paterson, Albany, schools, state, school aid.

If Gov. David Paterson's proposed state budget were to be passed as is tomorrow, Genesee County school aid would be looking at a loss of about $3.3 million compared with this past year's aid.

As for specific school districts within the county, here's the breakdown (based on proposed aid levels for the 2009-10 school year as compared with the current 2008-09 year):

• Alexander: A loss of $541,112, or 5.78 percent.

• Batavia: A loss of $637,011, or 3.14 percent.

• Byron-Bergen: A loss of $338,474, or 3.37 percent.

• Elba: A loss of $160,084, or 3.06 percent.

• Le Roy: A loss of $586,993, or 5.64 percent.

• Oakfield-Alabama: A loss of $372,623, or 3.57 percent.

• Pavilion: A loss of $163,353, or 1.88 percent.

• Pembroke: A loss of $537,260, or 5.01 percent.

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer has teamed up with Paterson to seek federal block grants to help offset the cuts to school aid. Nothing specific is yet worked out on that. From Schumer's Web site:

There are various approaches that Congress can use to deliver these critical funds to students and schools. U.S. Senate and House Leadership are consulting with the President's team to determine the best, most effective way to provide schools with the targeted resources necessary to maintain jobs and academic programs. Congress is considering using existing federal education funding formulas, such as the one used for Title I, No Child Left Behind funding, to determine the amount each state will receive in block grants. Schumer said it is essential that the block grants are distributed in a way that gives states and districts the flexibility and tools they need to keep serving our children.

What do you think? Is shifting the burden from the state to the Fed to cover these deficits the best move? No matter where the "billions" Schumer quotes so frequently with such bravado come from, don't they, in the end, come from our pockets. But what other choice do we have? Should the schools suck it up and try to face the cuts? How can they?

January 16, 2009 - 9:31am
posted by Philip Anselmo in state, emergency, Hudson River.

This is just one of those stories that everyone is talking about... A news search on Google for the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River yesterday afternoon yields no less than 7,211 articles—and counting—on the story that have gone up in the past 18 hours. Most of you have likely heard the details by now: an emergency crash-landing of a passenger jet in the Hudson River after both engines burned out; a heroic pilot; a freezing river rescue; 155 people aboard and nobody seriously injured; and so on.

Already, not even a full day later, this story has become ... Someone has already posted a montage of images from the crash landing on YouTube set to synthesized 1980s disco rock. New media reactions on the instantaneous dissemination of cell phone photos via services such as Twitter are as frequent as traditional media coverage. Everyone has something to say about almost every aspect of the event. One religious publication urges: "Yesterday's amazing airplane rescue... provides spiritual ponderings," according to the Village Voice, in its cheeky roundup of some coverage on the fringe.

Here are some other headlines from stories out there right now:

How the Hudson River plane crash brought us together

Landing hailed as 'Miracle on the Hudson,' probe begins

How Birds Can Down a Jet Airplane

Passenger: 'It seemed like it lasted an eternity'

Breaking news from the office window

January 8, 2009 - 8:25am
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, Democrats, governor Paterson, Albany, state.

As most of you are already aware, Gov. David Paterson pronounced his State of the State address from Albany yesterday. One message that came through loud and clear throughout the address and especially at its conclusion was that of sacrifice.

Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle picked up this quote: "We will sacrifice what we want today in order to achieve what we need tomorrow," he told a joint session of the state Legislature. "We will make sacrifices, but they must be shared sacrifices."

Yesterday evening, Democrats from Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties issued a joint statement, summing up their thoughts and reflections following the address.

As we enter an era of uncertainty, Governor Paterson calls on all of us to work for the survival of our State with hope, courage and bi-partisan action. Speaking of "one state one future," the Governor recognized the need to revitalize every part of New York, including our region, by focusing on the need to strengthen our health care system, combat childhood obesity, make college affordable for all, improve local government efficiency, rebuild infrastructure, develop 21st century energy efficiency, create bio-tech jobs, increase tourism, and form a consortium on hybrid electric battery manufacturing. This speech was a call to the legislature and, ultimately, the people across the State, to recognize that these are very tough times, our problems need to be solved together, and every New Yorker needs to tighten his or her belt, confident in the hope of a better tomorrow.

We hope to hear more of your reactions to the State of the State throughout the day today.

January 6, 2009 - 10:47am
posted by Philip Anselmo in Announcements, community, state, school for the blind.

From the School for the Blind:

On January 28, 2009 the New York State School for the Blind will host a Community Day in celebration of the School’s 140th Anniversary. The Community Day will be open to the public from 1:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.  The event will feature a variety of activities including a “Glimpses of Our Past” slide show, hourly tours, and activities with the goal of the participants gaining an understanding of individuals with visual impairments.

January 6, 2009 - 8:41am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, Buffalo, Rochester, governor Paterson, Albany, state, upstate, Geneseo.

Folks in the region will have several opportunities to meet and speak with our governor in February. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports this morning that Gov. David Paterson will hold a series of at least four town-hall style meetings upstate to "allow residents to ask questions and interact with the governor on the ideas he lays out in the State of the State address." Gov. Paterson will give his State of the State this Wednesday at 1:00pm.

Of those meetings that have so far been scheduled, three will be held within a short distance of Batavia: one in Buffalo on February 18, one in Rochester on February 11 and another in Geneseo on February 12. Others will likely be held in Watertown and Binghamton.

From the article:

Paterson has moved away from Spitzer's plan to split up some state duties, particularly economic development, into upstate and downstate branches. Paterson has argued that New York is one state with a united purpose.

Andrew Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said an upstate address isn't necessary so long as the governor gives the region the attention it needs.

If the symbolism of an upstate speech, "isn't followed up by definitive policy and asset allocation, what much difference does it make?" he said.

Most people would likely agree that the most pressing issue now facing the state is the budget crisis. A few weeks ago, Paterson released his budget proposal that caused quite a stir. We've put together a poll with a few topics that might come up when the governor visits upstate. Pick whichever you most want to hear about. I figure that the budget proposal will likely be a major part of the State of the State this Wednesday, so try to think what's most important to upstate other than that.

November 24, 2008 - 9:55am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, budget, Albany, state.

A proposal to cut community funding for towns and counties that host video-lottery-gaming facilities failed to pass the state Legislature earlier this year. But it is being brought up again by Gov. David Paterson and could take effect April 1, if it is passed. From the Democrat & Chronicle:

Towns and counties with video-lottery-gaming facilities would go bust under a plan by Gov. David Paterson to slash their aid by 50 percent as a way to trim the state's growing budget deficits.

If passed, the cuts could mean a drop from about $14 million to about $7 milion for counties across the state, including Genesee, Erie and Ontario.

Some local governments said they have prepared for a reduction in aid and didn't budget any of the money in the 2009 fiscal year, which for counties runs on calendar year. Aid to municipalities that have racetracks with the slot-machine-like devices started in 2006 under former Gov. George Pataki.

"We never programmed that money until it actually arrived," said Ontario County administrator Geoffrey Astles. Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing is located in Farmington, Ontario County.

The county would get its aid lowered from $844,533 to $422,267, while Farmington would see its aid sliced from $2.5 million to $1.3 million.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell told us this morning that the county has already planned for the cuts. In fact, he said, they do not perceive the drop in aid as a budget cut. "We look at it as there will be an inclusion of about $140,000," he said. That amount is compared with about $240,000 from the previous year.

The town of Hamburg stands to see a much more significant drop in their aid. From WNED:

The $1.2-million the town currently gets from Fairgrounds Gaming is supposed to cover the costs of having the gambling operation in Hamburg. Supervisor Steven Walters has asked town department heads to look at possible cuts in case the governor's proposal to cut the state share to $600,000 takes effect.

Check out the article from the Albany Times Union for more details on the proposed cuts.

November 21, 2008 - 4:01pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in budget, Albany, finance, economy, state, Mike Ranzenhofer.

Earlier this week, Robert Harding of the Albany Project posted his suggestions on how to tackle the state's budget crisis: Cut taxes, cap spending and tax millionaires. As always, Harding makes a great case for each, whether or not you're willing to go along with him on it or not.

Meanwhile, at the capitol, leading state legislators bickered and taunted and mocked one another at a special session that cost tax payers in excess of $100,000 and saved them nothing. Nor was anything acheived from the meeting. Outside, more than a thousand protestors gathered to decry any cut in revenue for whatever special interest group they happened to represent.

In short, New York proved yet again that it is more than worthy of the epithet: the nation's most dysfunctional legislature.

So I thought, OK, we've heard over and over again, every day this week, more about the dysfunction, and how nothing is getting done, yet this nothing is costing us more than ever. Well, we've got a few new faces that will soon be heading to Albany. One of them is our own Mike Ranzenhofer, representative of the 61st District. All eyes will certainly be upon him. He ran a solid, hard-fought campaign and got elected to represent us. We will now wait for him to deliver.

But isn't that a lot of pressure? Can Ranzenhofer really change things in Albany, home to the hulking, ineffectual organism that is our state Legislature?

Well, I called to ask those very questions. Here's what he had to say.

"One of the things I've always been able to do is... I'm able to work with members on both sides of the aisle," said Ranzenhofer.

He went on to explain that many new members will be heading to the Legislature at the beginning of the year.

"I'm hoping these members will prevail on some of the more established members to stop all the bickering and finger pointing and come to the realization that changes need to be made," he said. "We're in unprecedented times. We need to encourage members of looking at new ways of doing things."

Ranzenhofer had an inciteful response to just how one goes about getting the otherwise recalcitrant members of the Legislature to "look at new ways." He described the situation as being similar to someone who is going through a "personal" problem.

"First, you have to acknowledge that the problem exists, then be able to adopt strategies to deal with it," he said. "A lot of people in Albany are in denial. They don't realize there's a problem. We first need to identify the problem."

One such problem: We just don't have the revenue to support the amount of spending that has been approved.

Ranzenhofer has talked about his plan a lot before: cut spending across the board.

"I don't think this should be dictated by the governor or by the Assembly," he said. "We need to go to the workforce, go to the department heads and ask them about where they think cuts need to be made."

What's more, he said, we need to consider that it is "not acceptable" for anyone to say: 'Hey, it's this other department that's the problem, not mine.'

So, the real question, though, is how would Ranzenhofer—or any state representative, for that matter—make the case to his constituents, to the people of the 61st, that he's doing his absolute best to get things done, even if the atmosphere in Albany doesn't change. Bringing home the pork has been the standard mode of conduct. But shouldn't we start expecting more than just a gift of Christmas lights to smooth over the utter failure of our state representatives to run things with at least a modicum of efficiency? What if establishment rule carries the day, and no matter what you do, the stalemate, the bickering, the political charades—what if all that continues, despite your efforts? How do you let your people know: 'Hey, I'm still doing my best.'

"There are several things you (such a representative, that is) can do to tell them (the constituents) what's going on," he said. "It really involves communication: through venues such as your own or newsletters or telephone calls or town hall meetings. It's important to let people know that you're trying to make the changes. It's important to communicate with the people you represent in your district."

"I think I've done a good job of that in the (Erie County) Legislature, communicating the efforts I put forth trying to make changes. There are no guarantees. But you certainly have to have the energy, the vigor and the attitude that you're not going to give up."

November 14, 2008 - 8:25am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, Albany, economy, genesee county legislature, state.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell told WBTA's Dan Fischer that the potentially drastic cuts being talked about by Gov. David Paterson at the state level should have only a "minimal" impact on the proposed county budget for next year. The governor's plan for cutting spending involves mostly reductions to proposed increases, which wouldn't interfere much with the county finances.

In other news, congratulations are in order for Ed Leising of Batavia who was recently awarded the 2008 Health and Humanitarian Award by the Jerome Foundation and the United Memorial Medical Center Foundation. Dan Fischer tells us that Leising was "recognized for his charity work as a member of the Batavia Rotary Club" and because of his volunteer work with the hospital and other organizations.

August 22, 2008 - 8:35am
posted by Philip Anselmo in crime, wbta, police, Le Roy, Albany, finance, state.

Police in Le Roy are looking for anyone with information about an apparent break in at the Little League concession stand in the village, according to WBTA. At some point over the past few nights, someone had forced open the door and got inside. Anyone with information should call (585) 768-2527.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley told WBTA's Dan Fischer that most of the $450 million that the state legislature recently agreed to cut from its spending are "un-spent member items, the so-called pork that legislators use to win points with their local constituents." (Quote from Fischer.)

August 1, 2008 - 4:24pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in Albany, finance, state.

A new Web site called See Through NY promises to deliver "a clearer view of how ... state and local tax dollars are spent" by quite literally connecting users with the state's financial tax data. Launched by the Empire Center for New York State Policy on Thursday, the site has already made quite a splash. When I visited it this morning, it took about ten minutes to load because the site traffic has been so overwhelming.

All visits to the site today come with this disclaimer:

Due to heavy traffic, SeeThroughNY is experiencing technical difficulties and may be performing slowly.  We apologize for this inconvenience and are taking every step to correct these issues as quickly as possible.

We anticipate full functionality by mid-day on Friday, if not sooner.

It's pretty simple to use the site. Say you want to find out about how much money a state employee earns. Click on the bright green Payrolls button, follow the links to search the state payroll database, and... Voila! Or, at least, it would be voila if the search wasn't "timed out" after every effort to browse the salaries of the legislative branch, for example.

You can do the same for information on Contracts and Expenditures — and the data seems comprehensive — when the site is working, that is.

An article from the Johnson News Service, published in today's Daily News goes a little more in depth, behind the scenes. Reporter Tom Wanamaker talks with several people, including a municipal journalist's best friend, Robert Freeman, the executive director of the state Committee on Open Government.

"Thirty years ago, 'high-tech' meant electric typewriters and carbon paper," Freeman told Wanamaker. Freeman went on to call the site a "treasure trove of information on how public money is spent."

Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of New York State, hopes the site will spark a "rich debate about how governments spend taxpayer money."

Just a thought: The timing for the site's launch seems almost too perfect considering the governor's recent announcement that the state will need to start cutting staff and services to avoid a complete fiscal meltdown. We can now see in the barest and most unforgiving of languages — mathematics — just how each and every person, project and contract stacks up. Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing?

July 30, 2008 - 8:20am
posted by Philip Anselmo in governor Paterson, Albany, finance, state, fiscal crisis.

I've liked Gov. David Paterson since the first time I saw him. He's erudite, knows his facts, and he's got a sense of humor and a capacity for reason that about every other politician in the state, and many across the country, lacks to a fault. I'm not well versed enough in the political scene to get much more into my appreciation than that. That is, I can't say with any real authority if he's doing well or poorly at his job, though I would cautiously lean towards the former.

Proof:

Now that the news is out that the state accrued another $1.4 billion in debt over the past 90 days, he's calling our legislators back to work. How could the state be $1.4 billion in debt? City Council President Charlie Mallow alluded to it some the other day, in a comment appended to our initial story about the impending fiscal crisis, when he said that there are simply far too many special interest groups hankering after a piece of the pie. What looms is a question that ought to have been asked a long time ago in this state: What are we spending our tax money on... really?

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, told WBTA's Dan Fischer that the state need to perform more regular audits. Sounds good to me. Let's find out the gritty details of what money is going where.

Here are some details from Paterson's address last night, courtesy of the Buffalo News:

The state’s projected deficit for next year has swollen by another $1.4 billion in the last 90 days, Gov. David A. Paterson warned Tuesday during a statewide television address in which he summoned the State Legislature back next month for a rare, midsummer special session.

He issued the call for greater fiscal discipline just three months after he approved the current state budget, which provides for raising spending at twice the rate of inflation projected by state officials.

“New York’s families are already making the tough choices — New Yorkers are prioritizing spending every day,” Paterson said Tuesday in the five-minute address. “Now, your government is going to follow your lead. We are going to end legislative vacations and bring them back to Albany to reprioritize the way we manage New York State’s finances.”

So, he can talk a good game. But what now? What happens now?

Paterson did not offer specific ideas for controlling spending. Whether he will make such proposals before the Legislature returns Aug. 19 remained uncertain.

How aggressively the Legislature will cut spending also remained unclear. The special session will meet less than three months before all members are up for reelection.

If Paterson hoped legislative leaders would rush to his side to make serious cuts in the current budget, Tuesday evening must have been a disappointment.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat like the governor, went so far as to draw up a list of programs — the biggest items in the state budget — that should not be cut. It included education and health care, which, together, account for 63 percent of the budget.

First, I would be interested in knowing what accounts for the other 37 percent of the budget. Second, I would like to see how the education and health care funds are allocated.

The governor made no mention of education or health care. Nor did he discuss the state’s ballooning debt levels and other rapidly rising costs, such as pension and health care benefits for state workers.

The state’s worsening fiscal problems are twofold: spending that has risen 45 percent over five years to $122 billion in this year’s budget and a softening economy that is evaporating tax revenue to pay for these costly programs.

Despite the gloom, Paterson did not say whether he would consider layoffs or a hiring freeze. Under the current budget, the state work force is projected to add 1,400 positions to 201,000 workers.

But he did say that, in coming weeks, he will look at the size of the work force, which immediately raised red flags among some state worker unions.

Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the state government’s biggest union, called any talk of trimming the work force “a sham.”

“We will not stand by for knee-jerk political solutions that diminish our quality of life and create more misery,” said Donohue, whose union has major leverage with legislators, especially in an election year.

For the full story, see the article by Tom Precious.

July 28, 2008 - 9:50am

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.

June 5, 2008 - 7:50am
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, state.

Check out WBTA for these and other stories:

  • State Assemblyman Steve Hawley all but likens Governor David Paterson to a "dictator" and says the state is being run like a "monarchy" — listen to the audio clip from WBTA. Dan Fischer writes that Hawley criticized the governor for not doing more about property tax relief and "likened Paterson's directive on same sex marriage to Eliot Spitzer's failed policy on driver's licenses for illegal aliens." Hawley is paraphrased by Fischer as saying both moves were made without the input of the state legislature. I would be interested to hear more about how the two issues are related.
  • City Hall released the agenda for the next meeting of the City Council to be held June 9. WBTA says the meeting is at 7:00pm, but the meeting actually begins at 6:30pm, according to the agenda. WBTA provides a link to download the information.
  • Erie County legislator Kathy Konst will join the race for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Christopher Lee for the 26th Disctrict Congressional Seat, soon to be vacated by the departure of Tom Reynolds. Democrats already have three other candidates looking for the party nod: Jack Davis, Alice Kryzan and Jon Powers.
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