Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recession finally hits state government

Most of us have had to learn to do with less these past couple years.

I've personally used the phrase, “not in the budget” about four million times, whether it was while out shopping with the kids, or turning down a friend's request to go out to dinner or to a movie or whatever. We all have to prioritize and most often prioritizing means skipping what you want to to in order to afford what you have to do.

“Not in the budget” has become somewhat of a catch phrase. I'm hardly the only one saying it. The recession has affected almost everyone I know in some way or another. Many of my friends have lost jobs, or had to do more at their jobs, picking up the slack left because someone else at their job got a pink slip.

Private companies deal with the pain of recession by reducing their workforce if they can't find other ways to save enough money to make them viable during the bleak economic times that fall upon us from time to time.

Government, it seems, hardly goes that same route.

My budget – much like yours – is determined by my paycheck. My paycheck – much like yours – is determined by how many hours I work, multiplied by how much my employer is willing to pay me for each hour of work done.

Government's budget, meanwhile, is determined by how much they raise in taxes; whether they be sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes or “fees,” which are really just taxes with a different name.

Basically, people get paid what their employer is willing to pay. Government gets paid whatever they want.

This has been the formula for far too long.

One thing that rang out loud and clear from the election is that people aren't fond of that formula. People don't like being told what to do or how much to pay. Government is supposed to work for us. Not the other way around. And many of the people who won their elections in November campaigned on just such a mantra.

It looks like New York State might have gotten that message … to a degree. Last week Governor David Paterson announced that come January 1, there will be 900 fewer state employees than there are right now. The last day of this month, 900 people will get their pink slips and told to move on.

Of course, those 900 people are none-too-happy about this. And the unions that represent them aren't either.

But in Paterson's defense, he did give those unions an opportunity to save those jobs if they were willing to make concessions to save the state money. The unions, however, refused.

Paterson can't force concessions on the unions. They already have a contract. But he can reduce the number of employees. So that's what he did.

It's sad to see people lose their jobs. But it beats allowing the state to be held hostage by public employees unions.

Come January 1, this could all be moot if the incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo belays that layoff order.

If he does, we all might have to get part-time jobs just to pay our taxes. Or we'll have to learn to do with even less.