Gov. Cuomo is rejecting State Comptroller Edward V. Regan's request for a $10,000 pay raise, calling it unreasonable and surprising in light of layoffs and furloughs proposed for thousands of state workers.
"There's no way you can ask to lay off thousands of people just before Christmas and ask others to surrender five days' pay . . . and then turn around" and ask for a pay raise, Cuomo said Saturday.
Meanwhile, negotiations to cut state spending by $1 billion are progressing well and could produce an agreement as early as today, Cuomo said. The governor also indicated that a tuition increase for the state university system is moving toward approval, but he would not specify a figure.
In a letter delivered Friday, Regan called his salary request an "issue of fairness and equity."
The governor, in a somewhat-sarcastic tone, said that is "an idea that I have no sympathy for at all."
"I was surprised to see the letter, to put it mildly," Cuomo said.
Others in the Capitol also were stunned that Regan would seek a pay raise when all signs pointed against that possibility.
Legislative leaders already have ruled out a pay raise for themselves. Like Regan, the legislators cannot receive a salary increase after Jan. 1, when they begin new terms in office.
More striking, however, is the state's fiscal condition, with a projection of a $1 billion or larger deficit. In addition to a proposed one-week furlough for most state workers, Cuomo also is proposing a layoff for 2,000 state workers before April and another 8,000 next year in order to balance the state budget.
"Even in the face of the fiscal crises besetting New York State and New York City, no group of employees would agree to continue to work for eight years without some increase in future years," Regan wrote.
Regan last received a pay raise in 1986, when he was earning $100,000. Cuomo noted that Regan proposed the increase before Election Day that year.
Cuomo noted that Regan, a Republican, did not call for a pay raise during his hotly contested campaign against Carol Bellamy. Regan, a former Erie County executive and Buffalo Common Council member, narrowly won re-election over the Brooklyn Democrat.
Cuomo agreed with Regan's statement "it is acknowledged that persons who seek to perform public service do not pursue their careers solely for monetary reasons. The state cannot and should not pay salaries equal to those in the private sector."
Regan plans to submit a resolution to the Legislature that would increase the salaries for himself and Attorney General Robert Abrams, a Democrat. A spokesman for Abrams said the two men had discussed the proposal, but Abrams is not joining in the request.
In his letter, Regan also included a resolution that would allow Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Lundine, also a Democrat, to seek an increase in pay. Cuomo also rejected that idea.
Sources in the Capitol, who asked not to be identified, questioned Regan's request in light of his consistent campaign against state spending. Last week, he released lengthy reports on how the state is wasting money in Medicaid programs, as well as the operation of two ski resorts.
In his letter, Regan described the pay raise as a "modest cost."