Paterson Freezes State Wages, Workers Protest

September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM EDT

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association rallied in front of the Mahoney State Office Building in downtown Buffalo on Friday afternoon, to protest a wage freeze enacted by Governor David Paterson.

"I was absolutely shocked," said state worker Katie Harrington. "I thought this was already negotiated."

It was.

The raises were promised by the Spitzer Administration four years ago and were included in the workers' current contract.

But Governor Paterson said the state needs to hold on to the money, about $400 million, to help keep the state solvent.

"Gov. David Paterson's unilateral delay of a fairly negotiated raise for CSEA represented state employees is wrong and the governor knows it. CSEA President Danny Donohue said Thursday in a prepared statement, suggesting the union will go to court to get raises reinstated.

"It will leave CSEA with little choice in our course of action moving forward," he said.

Paterson's controversial move is getting some support with state lawmakers, who said something needs to be done to prevent the state from running out of cash.

The four percent increase was supposed to show up in the paychecks of 150,000 public employees.

Paterson has also withhold state aide to local governments and school districts.

But withholding pay raises does not save the state any money.

"This isn't even a reduction in spending," said State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst). "This is just keeping it the way it is."

Ranzenhofer supports the decision to keep the pay raises temporarily, but Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) does not.

"I know it's difficult right now, a very difficult time," he told the workers protesting outside the state office building today. "And we're going to do everything we can to get this issue resolved."

The state budget has been late since April 1.