The corner of Washington and Church streets outside Ellicott Square in downtown Buffalo turned into a major protest this afternoon as members of the state Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association rallied against Gov. David A. Paterson's proposal to furlough workers.
"Cut waste, not workers!" shouted public employees who say the furloughs will only cause more damage to an already fragile state economy.
"We're just here to send the message that the furloughs are a bad idea," said CSEA Political Coordinator Courtney Brunelle. "This is not the right way to solve the budget crisis and the governor is basically using us in the middle of the game of political chicken with the New York State Legislature."
Brunelle believes there are other options, not including furloughs, for saving money and improving the state's fiscal crisis.
"We've offered the governor a lot of ideas as to how he could better solve the budget crisis from buying Canadian prescription drugs to increasing the taxes on cigarettes here in New York State and selling wine in grocery stores," said Brunelle. "But he doesn't want to listen and he has contemptuously dismissed these ideas and he looks down on the important services public employees provide.
There's a lot of waste in the state government, said Environmental Engineer Kevin Hintz.
"There's a lot of areas where he can cut," said Hintz. "Cut the waste, still keep us employed, and still keep us delivering essentials services to the State of New York."
Depending on what happens this afternoon when the New York State Assembly and Senate vote on furloughs for 100,000 state workers, Hintz said more rallies may be necessary.
"We don't know what's going to happen this afternoon but we may need to do some other action between now and when this furlough may or may not go into effect."
Two Buffalo State employees were at the protest in support of their students.
"We're looking at how long this furlough may last. It may affect summer school," said Karen Johnson, a teacher and advisor at the college. "It could affect grading getting turned in on time. It could cause a lot of chaos."
"When you do something negative the ripple effect is negative," said Camile Spyra, who works in the Buffalo State College library and advises students. "You're taking money away from people who have to pay their mortgages, have to pay their bills, they pay state taxes. I mean this is all going to ripple down into the economy."
For Spyra, and many other worried state employees, the numbers just don't add up.
"It doesn't make sense to do something negative to try to balance a budget that's still $9 billion deficit. With what? $250 million? It just doesn't work."
Here's a video from the rally: