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1,089 state workers plan to take severance pay offer

Nearly 1,100 state workers will take Gov. David A. Paterson up on his offer for a $20,000 severance payment in return for leaving the government payroll later this year.

That number is far less than the Paterson administration initially projected in June for 4,500 workers to take the incentive, but officials insisted their overall dollar savings target will be achieved.

In all, between the vacancies created by the incentive payments and not filling other positions through attrition, the Paterson administration expects to save $260 million through 2010.

The projected savings were already anticipated in the budget, meaning the savings Paterson announced Monday will have no impact on the $2.1 billion deficit the state is facing in its current fiscal year, which ends next March 31. The governor and legislative leaders have yet to figure out a way to erase that red ink, despite earlier claims by the Democratic governor to bring both Democratic-controlled houses back later this month to fix that problem.

The Paterson administration declined Monday to release the names, titles or any specific information about who is getting the $20,000 severance payouts. Jeffrey Gordon, a Paterson budget division spokesman, said the employees must leave the payroll by Nov. 11, and so still have time to change their minds. He said such details will be released when the workers leave.

The severance payments are a bow by Paterson to the state's politically potent public employee unions, which successfully fought his earlier attempts to save more than $600 million over two years by such initiatives as freezing pay hikes for state workers, deferring five days of salary in 2009, and modifying such things as state retiree health insurance benefits. When unions rejected his cost-savings ideas to spread around savings across the state workforce, Paterson then threatened thousands of layoffs. The new severance-led program replaced that threat.

The severance payments will cost the state $22 million. Its savings in the 2009 fiscal year will be more modest, given the up-front severance payment; how late the state by November will already be in the fiscal year; and payment of at least three weeks of salary due departing state workers under the government's lag payroll system.

State agencies determined which positions would be eligible for the $20,000 payments. In turn, the agencies had to guarantee they would not fill the posts left vacant for at least two years.

At the Department of Environmental Conservation, no posts will be left vacant because of attrition or elimination of already vacant jobs, according to the governor's office; instead, 200 people are leaving with $20,000 severance payments.

At the Department of Correctional Services, savings are to come from 460 positions targeted through attrition or keeping them vacant, while only 37 workers were offered or took the $20,000 payments.

In all, 2,633 positions are being affected by attrition or elimination of vacant slots and 1,089 workers are taking the severance package.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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