BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - New York state will lay off almost 900 workers before the end of this year, Gov. David Paterson said Thursday.
For months Paterson has said a number of layoffs will be necessary in order to keep the state budget in balance. Paterson has now announced the final number of layoffs: 898, from a range of state departments.
The cuts will likely lead to longer wait times and reduced hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Paterson said. The state will also close two golf courses that were losing money and seek to privatize them, Paterson added.
"There will be some pain. That's what a financial crisis entails," Paterson said in an interview on 710 WOR-AM radio in New York City. "These are sacrifices we have to make. Our revenue stream is still soft."
The state faces at least an $8.2 billion deficit next year; Paterson said the figure is larger, but was not more specific.
Pink slips will begin arriving in late November and continue through Dec. 31, the final day Paterson is in office. He is not seeking election.
Paterson said he expects unions to sue him, as they did earlier this year when he tried to lay off workers at a facility in Queens and when he tried to furlough 100,000 workers to save the state money. In both cases, the courts ruled in favor of the unions, blocking Paterson's moves.
The Civil Service Employees Association, one of the largest unions representing state workers, filed a grievance with the state last month in an earlier round of layoff talk from Paterson.
The unions point to what they say is a 2009 binding agreement Paterson's administration signed with them that pledges no layoffs, or the threat of layoffs, through Dec. 31. In exchange, unions agreed not to lobby against a new tier in the state pension system that offered restricted benefits for new hires only.
"It's time for the governor to ask himself which state services he is willing to tell taxpayers they will have to do without," said Ken Brynien, president of the Public Employees Federation, representing white-collar state workers. "Will it be fewer bridge inspections or fewer inspections of the food we eat? Is he ready to roll the dice on whether our water supply is thoroughly inspected? What about calls to child abuse hotlines?"
Paterson said he doesn't think unions will win this time if they sue.
"This type of reduction plan is legal. The attorney general has said it is; he will defend it in court," Paterson said. "He said he'll support what I'm doing, and said he'll support it in court."
The attorney general, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, is also running for governor in next week's elections. Unions have criticized him for supporting layoffs.
"CSEA is shocked that the attorney general, the state's top law enforcement officer, would advocate breaking the law," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "Shame on Attorney General Cuomo. The attorney general is undermining his own credibility even before he has even been elected governor. He obviously has a lot to learn about managing the state work force, let alone following the law."
Paterson said cuts will come from the State Police, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the DMV, the Department of Transportation and the parks and corrections departments as well.
Paterson had 137,000 workers under his direct control when he took office in March 2008. Once these layoffs are finished, the next governor will have 126,500 workers under his direct control-a drop of 11,000 people in less than three years, Paterson noted.
"I'm not proud of that," Paterson said. "But that is significant progress toward trying to make sure there's shared sacrifice in our deficit reduction and in an attempt to keep our budget balanced."