State leaders can't agree on furloughs for state workers or any other major piece in Gov. Cuomo's plan to cut $1 billion in state spending, sources said Monday.
The impasse threatened to delay the Legislature's special session, which began Monday. Legislators arrived in Albany Monday but were expected to return home today unless negotiators report significant progress.
If they leave, legislators won't return to the Capitol for a week or more, according to Carl Carlucci, the top aide to the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee.
Cuomo turned up the heat on legislators this morning, saying they would be "irresponsible" to go home this week without acting on his proposals.
Among other things, Cuomo has asked the Legislature to approve a bill forcing state workers to take five days off without pay.
"That would be terrible," Cuomo said of a quick legislative departure. "That would make the problem worse and worse. Every day makes the problem worse."
"I refuse to believe the Legislature would be irresponsible and say we're not going to act," Cuomo said.
In addition to the impasse on Cuomo's proposal to impose a mandatory furlough on most state workers, there is no agreement on his plan to cut state aid to schools, hospitals and Medicaid, legislators and their aides said.
Meanwhile, Frederic V. Salerno,
chairman of the State University board of trustees, lobbied legislators Monday for an increase in SUNY tuition. SUNY officials want to increase tuition by as much as $150 in January to help offset $51 million in cuts that Cuomo has proposed.
Salerno also has written a letter to Cuomo, asking for the governor's support for a midyear tuition increase.
So far, aides to the Legislature, Cuomo and SUNY have discussed a
tuition increase privately. But there has been little public discussion in the Capitol, largely because no one wants to be blamed for initiating the idea, which is politically unpopular.
Likewise, Cuomo's furlough proposal has been met by public protests. Private talks have yielded some progress, however.
Publicly, legislative leaders say they are uncertain whether they can approve the legislation if public employee unions object.
Privately, however, they say the state's Taylor Law probably allows the Legislature to order furloughs for most state workers.
But the state's largest public employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, said it will sue if the Legislature approves a furlough plan. CSEA President Joseph McDermott said he broke off negotiations Sunday over the furlough proposal when Cuomo aides would not accept alternatives.
The governor asked the Legislature Monday to settle the issue. But Cuomo's legislation also states that if an alternative can be forged before Dec. 15, the furloughs will not take place.
Aides to the governor said some of the union's proposals, such as a delay in the payment of the state's payroll, could be the basis of a compromise. Like the furloughs, any compromise must save the state at least $135 million, Cuomo said. Essentially, the state would be saving a week's payroll by budgeting it in the next fiscal year.
Cuomo's legislation also makes furloughs optional for the SUNY and City University of New York systems, the Legislature, the courts and public authorities. If approved, the furlough legislation would allow the SUNY board of trustees to decide the issue for its workers.
If furloughs are ordered, legislative aides said, there are many problems still to be considered. Employees nearing retirement, as well as state police and corrections officers all pose special problems, they said.
It is possible, legislative sources said, that some -- not all -- state workers could be furloughed.
While state legislators have deep reservations about most of the governor's plan, his proposals to cut municipal aid by 10 percent and to drop 2,000 workers from the state payroll are, so far, not being opposed, sources said.
About 300 leaders of Council 82, the union representing corrections officers, lobbied state legislators. But there does not seem to be much interest in blocking Cuomo's proposal to cut 296 officers. In addition, 400 teachers and social workers in the department would lose their jobs under Cuomo's plan.
In a related development, Cuomo proposed a cost-cutting move Monday aimed at easing the budget crunch on local governments by loosening state rules that force counties, cities and towns to spend money. Cuomo said his series of mandate reforms would save local governments $300 million in the next fiscal year.
The legislation would let local governments contract with banks to collect taxes and allow them to impose a variety of service fees to collect more revenue.