Andrew Cuomo Goes After State Workers in Budget Crisis
Yesterday, New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that New York will end its fiscal year at the end of March with a $2 billion budget shortfall. Concurrently, Governor David Paterson announced that he would delay paying New Yorkers’ tax refunds until after the start of the new fiscal year, saving the state $500 million in the short term.
DiNapoli’s announcement underscored the fact that the budget is flawed because of actions taken by the government:
“This year’s budget was seriously flawed,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. “It was based on overly optimistic revenue assumptions and temporary revenue sources that pushed the problem into the future.”
Apparently, New York Attorney General and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo didn’t get the message. Today, in what can only be termed an ill-timed announcement, Cuomo unveiled an investigation into state workers’ overtime, suggesting that state workers in the twilight of their careers were taking on additional overtime to inflate their pensions.
As justification for his investigation, Cuomo cited a water department worker who was working 60 hour weeks and thus, with time and a half, earned $30,000 on top of his $40,000 a year salary, as well as a county animal control officer who, while working 55 hour weeks, earned his $38,000 salary and another $19,000 in overtime.
But Cuomo neglected to note in his announcement that the state has been under a hiring freeze since July 30, 2008 (though the legislature, courts and state university system are exempted). With the kind of overtime being pulled in by the water and animal control employees, it seems clear that the hiring freeze is costing the state dearly — but Cuomo won’t be investigating that.
As The Wall Street Journal notes, Cuomo’s pension investigation didn’t start out as a witch hunt against state workers putting in overtime in the midst of a two-year hiring freeze.
The new line of inquiry for Mr. Cuomo marks a shift in focus. His ongoing pay to play investigation has looked at potential abuses in the management of pensioners’ funds.
Going after the pensions of hard-working state employees in the midst of a recession surely isn’t better for Cuomo’s political aspirations than tracking down fat cat banker-types siphoning off pension funds with fees and bad investments. But with few other state Democrats in the running for their party’ nomination for governor, maybe it doesn’t matter.
Although the general election may have just gotten a little more interesting…