A federal judge blocked Gov. David Paterson’s attempt to place about 100,000 state workers on furlough and withhold contractual raises that were due to them on April 1.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn upheld a temporary restraining order he issued this month against Paterson’s furlough plan, which would have put the workers on unpaid furlough one day a week for eight weeks, Gannett’s Jon Campbell reports.
The order also required Paterson to include money for the raises in his emergency budget extenders, which have been passed each week since the beginning of the fiscal year on April 1 in the absence of a state budget agreement. The governor previously withheld the raises, but included them in his latest extender after the restraining order was issued.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the rule of law in New York and should make it clear that no governor can run roughshod over people’s rights,” said Danny Donahue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, one of the four unions that had sued Paterson in federal court.
Paterson had argued that his plan was “reasonable and necessary” in the midst of a state fiscal crisis and a $9.2 billion budget gap, but Kahn ultimately disagreed.
“Defendants cannot demonstrate that they did not impose a drastic impairment when an evident and more moderate course was available,” Kahn wrote in his 27-page decision. “Once again, their argument is limited to generalities (For example: ‘In order to alleviate the current fiscal and cash crisis, measures must be taken on all fronts – including reduction in workforce spending.’) supported only by assertions that other measures would not produce savings equivalent to those created by the current provisions.”
In a statement, Paterson said he was disappointed in the court’s decision.
“I am disappointed by the Court’s ruling, as it prevents the implementation of State employee furloughs and requires the immediate payment of public employee pay raises,” he said. “In his ruling, however, the judge did not agree with the unions’ position that the State is not experiencing a fiscal crisis. The State is facing severe cash flow difficulties, and I have withheld or delayed payments to schools, non-profits, contractors and others in order to prevent the State from running out of cash.”
Paterson called on legislative leaders to meet with the public employees unions in an attempt to gain $250 million in concessions to help alleviate budget concerns.
Here’s the decision.