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U.S. Judge Blocks State Worker Furloughs


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ALBANY — A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a one-day furlough of state workers scheduled by Gov. David A. Paterson for next week, reversing a plan that the governor has said is necessary to keep the state from running out of money at the end of the month.

The judge, Lawrence E. Kahn of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, issued a temporary restraining order after unions representing state employees and public university teachers filed a lawsuit alleging that the furloughs, which the Legislature approved on Monday, were illegal.

The unions said that forcing workers to take a day off without pay would violate collective bargaining agreements.

Judge Kahn’s ruling also bars Mr. Paterson from seeking any further furloughs until a hearing, which he scheduled for May 26.

In his order, the judge wrote that the furloughs, which could have cost about 100,000 state workers a day’s pay and would have been the first in New York history, would cause irreparable harm if put into effect and that the unions were very likely to win their case in court — two conditions for issuing a temporary restraining order.

State and federal courts around the country have largely upheld challenges to furloughs ordered by state officials.

Judge Kahn also ordered Mr. Paterson to include raises that state workers were supposed to get as part of their contract in future emergency bills that are keeping state government operating until a new budget is adopted.

Those raises were scheduled to go into effect in April, but Mr. Paterson has so far declined to appropriate money for them, saying the state cannot afford it. Union leaders have refused to voluntarily give up the raises.

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Mr. Paterson said: “Until we go to court, the state work force will not be making any sacrifice in our deficit-reduction plan. And I think that’s unfortunate.

“But this is a system of laws and a society of rules, and we’ll go to court to try to persuade them that our position is right.”

Union leaders, who have repeatedly denounced Mr. Paterson in recent days, said they were confident they would ultimately prevail in court.

“Gov. David Paterson’s plan was ill-advised and demonstrates action that was not in the best interest of New Yorkers,” said Danny Donahue, the president of the Civil Service Employees Association. “C.S.E.A. believes the governor’s plan would have created even more chaos and crisis.”

Mr. Paterson and the Legislature have been unable to reach a deal to close what has become a deficit of more than $9 billion. The furloughs were intended to help secure about $250 million in state work force savings that Mr. Paterson included in his executive budget proposal last year.

Any effort by Mr. Paterson to enact layoffs is also likely to draw a court challenge because of a deal the governor made with unions last year to forgo layoffs in exchange for measures that would reduce the state’s long-term pension costs.

But some legal experts said that the governor would have a better chance of winning a court fight over layoffs, because the deal with unions was not part of a collective bargaining agreement and might not be considered as binding as if it had been included in a labor contract.

Mr. Paterson’s furlough plan, which would have affected about half the state’s work force, was the impetus for a major rally in Albany on Monday and was criticized by lawmakers as unnecessary even as they voted to approve the furloughs.

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No private sector jobs no revenue. NAFTA, SHAFTA. Thank your government for the fine job they are doing with our economy. This is not a free market, it's a fascist state and a failed one at that. No blood from the turnip means less for the public sector bloodsuckers with their endless benefit packages that the private sector could only dream about. I think the public sector needs to realize that they cannot rely on the private sector for their success, but instead need to actually produce something that will sale. Creating laws that require more taxes to be paid isn't gonna work either. The system never had any money to begin with and the gig is up.


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