Nobody likes to see anyone fired; especially when times are tough and jobs are hard to find. But the fact remains that one of New York’s biggest problems is a bloated public employee force, with generous pay and benefits compared to what is found in the private sector.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is approaching the end of his first year in office and has received high marks across the board for his make-no-excuses approach to dealing with our budget problems. This has been a crises going back over 20 years to the last Governor Cuomo, and every governor since has addressed the problem the same way, raise taxes and raise spending even more.
This has created a structural problem, where our budget increases at a rate faster than we can keep up with. Much of this has been driven by Big Labor, which has not only refused to make concessions in the past, but instead has kept up pressure for bigger and more outrageous increases that have driven New York to the top of the highest taxed state list.
Now almost 10 months in, it’s time for the governor to make some tough decisions. CSEA, the largest union in N.Y., has worked out a five-year agreement with Cuomo to cut costs with no layoffs. However, that deal doesn’t seem to be acceptable to PEF, the 56,000-member public employees union. Union leaders agreed to the deal over the summer, but now the members have voted to reject the contract.
Cuomo promised that if they didn’t ratify the contract, he would be forced to lay off 3,500 members. Now PEF wants to renegotiate, complaining about the five-year term of the contract, among other things. But after more than 20 years of riding the gravy train, more than five years of austerity will be required to get our house in order.
This should be a non-negotiable point. CSEA already set the standard by agreeing to a five year deal. If Cuomo caves on this with PEF, he will be far weaker when dealing with other unions. Nobody wants to see anyone fired now, but Cuomo must make good on his promise. Fire the 3,500 PEF employees, who the union clearly didn’t feel were a priority, and let’s make New York’s budget structurally sound once and for all.
Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.