Public Employee Press
Budget battles begin
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
By the time Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced
their state and city budget proposals in January, DC 37 had begun working
closely with political allies and coalitions to protect union jobs and
The governors proposed $99.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2004-05,
which begins April 1, projects a $5.1 billion revenue shortfall. It counts
on continuing the sales tax on clothing and raising taxes on nursing homes
and hospital bills to bring more than $700 million into state coffers.
The governor proposed Medicaid cuts that would provide some cost relief
for New York City but could reduce funding for the citys Health
and Hospitals Corp.
The mayors $45.7 billion plan for FY 2004-05 includes a $2 billion
gap, which he would close with half of the current years $1.4 billion
surplus, $300 million in federal aid, $400 million in state gap-closing
aid, and a half-billion dollar reduction in long-term debt. FY 2004-05
begins July 1 for the city. The city plan would eliminate the clothing
tax in June. Mr. Bloomberg did not call for labor concessions to balance
the budget, but in negotiations he is insisting on concessions to finance
a contract settlement.
No layoffs are called for in the mayors proposal, but the Police,
Fire, Sanitation and Corrections departments would reduce civilian positions,
and cuts affecting libraries and cultural institutions are of concern
to union members. Social Services, Homeless Services, Health and the Administration
for Childrens Services would replace temporary services contracts
with more than 1,200 civil service jobs.
When Mayor Bloomberg announced his doomsday budget proposals for
2003-04, DC 37 worked successfully with state legislators and City Council
members to enhance funding for the city and minimize the damage extreme
cuts and layoffs would have caused, said DC 37 Executive Director
Lillian Roberts. Our strategy will be similar this year.
While the union will look to political allies in Albany and the City Council
to provide adequate funding for public services and jobs, both Republican
leaders were careful to show a softer side by not calling for tax hikes.
This move suggests a concern that raising taxes in an election year would
harm them politically and threaten President Bushs chances in November.
DC 37 will approach this years budget as it has in previous years,
understanding that proposed spending plans are subject to negotiations
before they are finalized.
Coalitions for action
DC 37 is partnered with the City Council in the Fair Share Campaign for
equitable federal and state aid for New York City, backing the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity in the effort to get adequate state financing for city
schools, and working with the Better Choice Campaign on state funding
issues. The goals include:
- Obtaining more federal and state
aid for homeland security, Medicare, and worker training.
- Increasing state and city education
funding and improving state aid formulas.
- Improving federal and state funding
for health care, including Medicare, Family Health Plus, Child Health
Plus and Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC)
The union will also press legislators
to close tax loopholes for corporations and increase corporate accountability
by ending pension fund raids and executives golden parachutes, which
come too often at the expense of employees and investors.
While the state budget proposal would retool funding formulas for public
education, health care and Medicaid, it was blurry on details and timing.
The court-imposed mandate to increase education funding for New York City
is being interpreted one way by Republican legislators, who are holding
out for delivering just a plan this year, and another way by Democrats,
who are aiming to include the much needed money.
The infusion of resources could provide more books, labs, and after school
programs for the citys 1.1 million public school children.
The union believes a new school aid formula could provide increased job
security for members employed by agencies like the School Construction
Authority and the Dept. of Education.
Effect on contract
DC 37 sees the governors plan for Medicaid reform as potentially
affecting members. The current state formula for
reimbursing hospitals that care for the uninsured may be recalculated
and could change Medicaid eligibility requirements. Potentially, more
patients could be moved into Health Care Plus programs, a downward step
in care. The reduced services could adversely impact the citys Health
and Hospitals Corp.
Last year DC 37 helped gain $2.1 billion in aid and revenue for
the city, averting 10,000 layoffs, Ms. Roberts said. This year,
although the mayors budget does not include layoffs or increased
taxes, Ms. Roberts said: The budget process will play a role in
the success or failure of our efforts to secure a fair and equitable contract
for DC 37 members.
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