ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Gov. David Paterson from requiring tens of thousands of state workers to take a one-day-a-week furlough, to save the state money by the 20 percent payroll reduction.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn’s ruling came days after the Civil Service Employees Association, the AFL-CIO and other unions representing state workers sued Paterson. The unions claimed that the furloughs, approved Monday by the Legislature, were illegal because Paterson inserted the furlough portion into an emergency budget bill.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision, which was granted without the benefit of a hearing,” Paterson’s spokesman Morgan Hook said in a statement. “We look forward to our day in court.”
Judge Kahn prevented Paterson from seeking furloughs until a May 26 hearing on the issue. He added that Paterson’s proposed budget failed to appropriate money for scheduled raises for state workers. The state’s budget is overdue by more than a month. It was due April 1.
Judge Kahn declared all portions of the Legislature’s new law allowing for the furloughs – which would have affected nearly half of the state’s workers – “to be unconstitutional and a nullity.”
The unions claimed that Paterson’s move violated the state’s public policy, the New York and U.S. Constitutions, the civil service law, the Taylor Law and union contracts.
No stranger to civil litigation, Gov. Paterson took his fight to appoint a lieutenant governor to the state’s highest court last year, and won.
“I’ve been sued before,” Paterson said, according to the lawsuit filed by the New York State Public Employees’ Federation. “I will try to impose that furlough period which after eight weeks will give us the $250 million we need.”
In his proposed budget, the governor sought to save $250 million via concessions from labor unions, the Public Employees claimed. Its lawsuit claimed that the governor acknowledged that any “give backs” had to be negotiated with the unions.
Two more lawsuits were filed in Albany Federal Court a day before the judge’s ruling, brought on behalf of university professors in the state.
Despite Judge Kahn’s ruling, the executive branch continues to maintain that the furloughs are necessary.
“It is imperative for the state to conserve revenues and maintain the orderly operation of government, and the governor remains committed to the objective,” Hook said. “Gov. Paterson again calls for the leaders of New York’s public employees unions to share in the sacrifice that all New Yorkers are enduring in this extraordinary fiscal crisis.”