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State Senate Democrats trim their staffs

ALBANY -– State Senate Democrats fired 130 staff members today -– another piece of evidence of the changeover of power of the Senate from Democratic to Republican hands.

Senate Republicans have claimed that the Democrats –- who controlled the chamber the past two years   -– overspent their current fiscal year budget by $10 million to $12 million.

“We’ve made significant payroll reductions to bring spending down to appropriate levels. Further reductions are ongoing and greatly depend on whether the Republicans will be as fair with the resources as we were in the majority so all members can serve their constituents equally," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

The firings do not include those Senate Democratic staffers who left with their bosses on Dec. 31 -– such as the staff of former Sens. Antoine Thompson or Bill Stachowski –- or resignations since Jan. 1.

The Senate Republicans have not yet said how much of a budget the Senate Democrats will have to work with in the coming year. “They can’t get a final number until we make certain they reduce their payroll significantly," said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican.

Libous said the Senate is looking at running in the red for the fiscal year ending March 31 because the Democrats spent beyond their approved budget. He said the Senate Democrats overspent by up to $12 million out of a budget of $90 million.

Officials say the Democratic Senate payroll has now been reduced from about $40 million to about $27 million on an annualized basis. Officials did not immediately know how many staff members left on Dec.  31 in the few weeks before Thursday’s terminations of 130 people.

But Libous said the Republicans are awaiting confirmation of payroll costs, possibly coming this week,  from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The Albany trappings of power fight under way is fierce. Lawmakers are jockeying for bigger staffs, which can translate to more bodies to help with constituency work and also take care of patronage and prestige issues. They also are also are sparring over who gets the offices at the Capitol and Legislative Office Building with the largest square footage, best views and, as the real estate industry says, the choicest location, location, location.

-- Tom Precious

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