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Albany is abuzz over Governor's furlough plan

Political Analyst Bob Bellafiore
Political Analyst Bob Bellafiore

By Mark Scott

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-900302.mp3

Albany, NY – State employee unions are warning their members to prepare for a one-day per week furlough, starting May 17th. Union leaders are vowing to use all the legal means at their disposal to stop the furloughs.

Governor David Paterson says his next emergency spending bill will call for an unpaid day off each week for an estimated 100,000 state workers. State legislators will have no choice but to pass the bill or risk a total shutdown of state government.

On Wednesday's Capitol Pressroom on WBFO, political analyst Bob Bellafiore, senior partner and director of Public Affairs for the Albany office of Eric Mower and Associates, had his own questions about the governor's proposal.

"It's of questionable legality," Bellafiore said. "Under the law, we'll have to pay these folks back at the end because you can't diminish their salaries."

A vote on the next emergency spending bill is scheduled for next Monday. The State Legislature cannot make any changes and must either accept or reject what the Governor proposes. If they were to reject it, state government would shut down -- something that lawmakers are unwilling to do.

Steve Greenberg of the Siena Research Institute said until now, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was trying to avoid antagonizing the unions.

"The Speaker had been saying this is the governor's issue," Greenberg said. "But now the governor is making it the Legislature's issue."

Still, Paterson is trying to ease the sting by offering an early retirement incentive to removemore state workers from the state payroll. Bellafiore, who was an aide to former Governor George Pataki, said reducing the number of workers is where the real savings are.

"(State government) has slowed down hiring but (it) has not done the kind of work force reductions, which is the one place where an organization can get savings."

Administration officials aren't yet saying how many retirements they're hoping for or how much it would save.