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May 20, 2011

National/Politics

Trumka to put Democrats on notice
By: Chris Frates
Politico
May 20, 2011 07:30 AM EDT

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka will use a lunchtime speech at the National Press Club on Friday to push back against the “destructive” austerity narrative driving Washington and urge lawmakers to create jobs, protect pensions and provide health care for everyone. “We’ll only win investments in our future if we again embrace the idea that we are one national community,” Trumka will say, according to advance excerpts of the speech provided to POLITICO. “That our very identity is bound up with the promise that all of us have a voice-in the workplace, at the ballot box-and that we are responsible in a deep sense for each other. The fabric of our government, our democratic republic, is about making that responsibility for each other real.” And Trumka suggested that the powerful union is ready to take on anyone — even a traditional Democratic ally, if necessary — who doesn’t join the chorus singing from the labor songbook.

Reid rejects Boehner proposal for $2 trillion in spending cuts
By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
Los Angeles Times
6:00 PM PDT, May 19, 2011

Battle lines in federal debt talks sharpened markedly Thursday when the Senate's top Democrat rejected a proposal for $2 trillion in budget cuts as demanded by House Speaker John A. Boehner, saying any cuts must be accompanied by action on closing tax loopholes. "You can't do $2 trillion just in cuts," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview in his Capitol office. "There has to be a mix of spending cuts, including defense. There has to be a more fair apportionment of tax policy in this country." Republicans have resisted using tax reform to rein in deficits as Congress and the White House try to break a stalemate over raising the nation's debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid a first-ever federal default. Boehner's office reiterated Thursday that tax hikes would not be "on the table" in talks.
Reid said negotiations are likely to drag until the 11th hour, a prospect certain to send shudders through the financial markets and fuel political debate.

Insurers Told to Justify Rate Increases Over 10 Percent
By ROBERT PEAR
New York Times
May 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — Alarmed at soaring premiums and profits in the health insurance industry, the Obama administration demanded on Thursday that insurers justify proposed rate increases of more than 10 percent, starting in September. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, issued a final rule establishing procedures for federal and state insurance experts to scrutinize premiums. Insurers, she said, will have to justify rate increases in an environment in which they are doing well financially, with profits exceeding the expectations of many Wall Street analysts. “Health insurance companies have recently reported some of their highest profits in years and are holding record reserves,” Ms. Sebelius said. “Insurers are seeing lower medical costs as people put off care and treatment in a recovering economy, but many insurance companies continue to raise their rates. Often, these increases come without any explanation or justification.” Federal health officials proposed the 10 percent threshold in December. The insurance industry criticized it as an arbitrary test that could brand a majority of rate increases as presumptively unreasonable. But the administration rejected the criticism and insisted on the 10 percent standard in the final rule, issued Thursday.

Catholic bishops boost Ryan
By: Jennifer Haberkorn
Politico
May 19, 2011 06:02 PM EDT

The Catholic Church is weighing in on the contentious House budget debate. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan a letter yesterday commending his "continued attention" to Catholic social justice “in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress.” "The budget is not just about numbers,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan wrote in the letter. “It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements." Last month, Ryan (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Dolan outlining how the church’s social teaching informed his budget. In the two-page letter, Dolan did not come out and expressly endorse the budget, insisting that he’s a pastor, “not a politician.” But he praised Ryan’s attention to fiscal responsibility, the role of the family, the dignity of the person and human life and attention to the poor. The letter also clearly disputes one of the chief rallying cries against the budget: That it would hurt the poor to benefit the rich.

Labor, Republicans battle over organizing in transportation sector
By Keith Laing and Kevin Bogardus
The Hill
05/20/11 06:14 AM ET

The inroads that labor unions have made in the transportation sector this year are being met with fervent resistance from Republicans. Even as state-level fights over labor rights have raged in places like Wisconsin and Ohio, Capitol Hill has been consumed with the actions of federal agencies like the National Mediation Board (NMB) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that have helped unions expand their ranks in the travel industry.

Job creation limps along after recession
By Dennis Cauchon
USA TODAY
May 20, 2011

Nearly two years after the economic recovery officially began, job creation continues to stagger at the slowest post-recession rate since the Great Depression. The nation has 5% fewer jobs today — a loss of 7 million — than it did when the recession began in December 2007. That is by far the worst performance of job generation following any of the dozen recessions since the 1930s. In the past, the economy recovered lost jobs 13 months on average after a recession. If this were a typical recovery, nearly 10 million more people would be working today than when the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Unions give Democrats a pass on concessions
The Washington Examiner
May 20, 2011

When conservative Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill earlier this year to restrict the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin state employees and require them to pay more of the costs of their own pensions and health care, thousands of angry union protesters descended on the state capital in Madison in what became a major national media story for several weeks. However, the reaction was much more subdued when County Executive Ike Leggett did the same thing in Montgomery County. With a state deficit projected to hit $3.6 billion over the next two years, Walker said he had no choice. But labor leaders vowed to launch a major national counterattack against the Wisconsin Republican, who used the $30 million in savings from his plan to avert 1,500 layoffs and service cuts.

How many federal and postal workers can retire?
By Ed O'Keefe and Eric Yoder
Washington Post
May 20, 2011

About 550,000 full-time career federal government and U.S. Postal Service could hang it up and move on at anytime because they are eligible to retire, according to government statistics. The eligible workers represent about a quarter of the 2.4 million permanent full-time employees collecting government or postal paychecks. The Office of Personnel Management, which compiles and releases federal personnel and retirement statistics, shared the numbers Thursday following inquiries by The Washington Post. Federal workers, their union leaders and other close observers warned this week that proposals to significantly increase payroll deductions of federal workers to contribute to their pension funds may hasten an exodus of older, experienced workers eligible to retire.

Report Faults Mine Owner for Explosion That Killed 29
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
New York Times
May 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — In the first comprehensive state report on the 2010 coal mine disaster in West Virginia, an independent team of investigators has put the blame squarely on the owner of the mine, Massey Energy, concluding that it had “made life difficult” for miners who tried to address safety and built “a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable.” The report, released on Thursday by an independent team appointed by former Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and led by J. Davitt McAteer, a former federal mine safety chief, echoed preliminary findings by federal officials that the blast could have been prevented if Massey had observed minimal safety standards. But it was more pointed in naming Massey as the culprit, using blunt language to describe what it said was a pattern of negligence that ultimately led to the deaths of 29 miners on April 5, 2010, in the worst American mining disaster in 40 years.

Who Pays For Unintended Pregnancies?
by Julie Rovner
NPR
May 19, 2011

While some states and the federal government debate whether to halt funding of Planned Parenthood and other providers of family planning services, a new study finds that the cost of unintended pregnancies is large, and much of the bill — about $11 billion per year — goes to government programs and ultimately taxpayers. The study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that was formerly affiliated with Planned Parenthood, is sure to raise some eyebrows in the anti-abortion community.

Wisconsin

New special master is named to mediate access to Capitol
By Don Walker
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 19, 2011

Lawyers for organized labor and the state Department of Justice have canceled a court hearing scheduled for next week in a lawsuit in which Administration Secretary Michael Huebsch is being accused of being in contempt of court for ignoring a court order on public access to the State Capitol. The hearing before Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Albert was canceled because both sides in the dispute agreed to meet with the court's new special master. … The Wisconsin State Employees Union has alleged that Huebsch has ignored Albert's order that public access to the Capitol be returned to the time before protests erupted at the Capitol in early February.

Nine state workers earned more than $65,000 each in overtime
By Patrick Marley and Jason Stein
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 19, 2011

Madison - Nine state workers made more than $65,000 in overtime last year, including one who took in about $105,000 in overtime to more than double her salary. For the second year in a row, the state worker making the most in overtime was Sheryl Lee Fors, a 53-year-old nurse clinician at Southern Wisconsin Center who made a base salary of $91,077 and $104,930 in overtime. Total earnings for the year: $196,007. In 2009, Fors made $188,070, including almost $97,000 in overtime. The figures were included in a report released Thursday by the Legislative Audit Bureau that looked at overtime costs for state workers. … But Bob McLinn, a correctional sergeant and president of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said overtime can build up because prisons don't have enough officers. Other factors can play a role as well, such as retirements or absences caused by the eight annual furlough days employees are required to take, McLinn said.

Milwaukee County's largest union still pushing for new contract
By Steve Schultze
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
May 19, 2011

Milwaukee County's largest union wants a last-ditch shot at negotiating a contract through 2012 or '13, with the aim of beating implementation of Gov. Scott Walker's measure to repeal most collective bargaining for public workers. District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wants the County Board to delay approval of a measure to impose higher employee pension contributions and other concessions sought by Walker to complete a long-stalled contract with the county. The union represents about 3,500 of the county's 5,400 employees, including parks, highway and social workers. They have been working under terms of a contract that expired in 2009. The board's finance committee Thursday declined to go along with the wait, narrowly approving on a 3-2 vote a resolution calling for quick implementation of a series of concessions as soon as the state measure is put in force. The matter also goes before another board committee Friday and the full board next week. County Executive Chris Abele, who was endorsed in his April 5 election by AFSCME, said the timing of any potential agreement with the union was less important than the outcome. But Abele held out some hope a deal might be struck.

State/Local

San Jose officials warn employees that 600 jobs might be axed
By John Woolfolk
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Posted: 04/22/2011 04:55:34 PM PDT

With time running short and few agreements with employee unions to help close a $115 million budget gap, San Jose officials next week will notify more than 600 city workers -- from police officers to librarians -- that they may lose their jobs by the end of June. The city may see even more layoffs than last year, when it slashed 713 positions and 215 employees were laid off to close a record $118.5 million deficit. Layoff totals won't be clear until June, but the city currently has few vacant jobs to cut. "These decisions are not taken lightly," City Manager Debra Figone said in a notice to employees this week about the looming layoffs. "But the current state of our revenues and expenditures are such that significant reductions are simply unavoidable." The City Council had sought 10 percent pay cuts and agreements to reduce pension and other benefits to help close this year's gap and shrink deficits in the next several years. But only four of the city's 11 employee unions have agreed to the requested salary cuts, and the city has been unable to reach accords on reducing costly perks and pensions. … The city's largest union, the Municipal Employees' Federation, has dismissed the pension alarm as a scare tactic, contending that the concerns will ease as the economy improves. But Councilman Pete Constant, a retired city police officer and former pension trustee, says that's nonsense. "I don't know how you can look at these numbers and say it's not a problem," Constant said. "It's clearly the main problem."

Jackson Health System cuts 189 positions
By John Dorschner
Miami Herald (FL)
May 19, 2011

In his first major step toward cost-cutting, Carlos Migoya, Jackson Health System’s chief executive for three weeks, said Thursday he is eliminating 189 positions for an annual savings of $13.3 million. Most of those positions are vacant. Forty-nine employees will be affected, Migoya said, but some will be able to move to other vacancies within the system, which has lost $337 million during the past two years. Migoya said the eliminations would not change patient care. He didn’t offer details on what kinds of positions would be cut. The reductions amount to 1.7 percent of Jackson’s 11,100-member workforce. … Meanwhile, a new study on Jackson’s governance, scheduled to be released Friday morning, concluded that there are no “magical” answers to turn the hospital around. To do that, Jackson needs top executives making smart decisions. The study by Coral Gables economist J. Antonio Villamil was commissioned by the SEIU Local 1991, a Jackson employees’ union, which is opposed to the recent recommendation of a county task force that said Jackson should be changed into a nonprofit corporation with independent directors to succeed financially.

Florida hopes its future looks like the past
By Christine Vestal
Stateline
May 20, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — When you count all the foreclosed homes in Florida, and add in those that were built before the recession but never sold, what you find can be hard to believe: One in five houses in Florida is sitting empty. That statistic is a measure of the depth of Florida’s fall since its housing market collapsed in 2006 — a year before the rest of the U.S. economy began to tip. When that happened, Florida’s population stopped growing for the first time since the end of World War II. Jobs disappeared and credit tightened, leaving Florida’s housing market frozen in place. But the glut of empty homes — which is further depressing already low home prices — may turn out to be crucial to Florida’s return to prosperity. Economists say the ample supply of bargain-priced homes, along with the sun, beaches and low taxes that have always made Florida an attractive place to retire, will propel its growth once again.

Some Hillsborough County workers being forced to compete, reapply for jobs
By Bill Varian
St. Petersburg Times (FL)
In Print: Friday, May 20, 2011

TAMPA — As governments across Florida trim their employee ranks, Hillsborough County is introducing a change that is sending waves of anxiety through its workforce. County government employees were told this week that some of them will soon be forced to reapply for their jobs and compete against outside applicants. The jobs, about 120 in all, are getting new titles and new responsibilities as part of a broader reorganization of county government, County Administrator Mike Merrill said. Some of them will be eliminated altogether. Though the county won't know the exact number of job cuts until later next month, it is expected to be between 30 and 45. Merrill said the approach aims to give the public what it wants — more efficient government — while treating employees fairly and humanely. It could also serve as a model for future job cutbacks, he said. The announcement touched off panicked e-mails and phone calls among county employees and their families. The e-mails say that those hired back will get offered wages at the bottom end of a smaller pay scale. They also contend that it is an end run around government employees' Civil Service protections, or even an attempt to cripple Civil Service altogether. They contend the affected employees are being subjected to a cruel workplace version of musical chairs. It will force 20-year veterans of county government to justify their existence. "We're putting together an information request for exactly what is being done," said Hector Ramos, director of the regional office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents many of the county's blue-collar workers. "We're concerned about workers who are about to lose their livelihoods in these terrible economic times."

Probe: Contractor unintentionally misspent $400K
By KELLI KENNEDY
Associated Press
Miami Herald (FL)
May 19, 2011

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A Miami foster-care provider contracting with the Department of Children and Families unintentionally misspent more than $400,000 in state funds, according to a state investigation released this week. But the contractor takes issue with the findings. The inspector general's investigation found no intentional fraudulent misuse by Our Kids, a DCF contractor that receives about $74 million a year to care for 3,500 children. But the investigation illustrates a broader problem of vague contracts between the department and its private contractors, including policies on awarding subcontracts and bonuses.

Abercrombie: No More Money For Nurses
KITV.com (HI)
POSTED: 2:08 pm HST May 19, 2011
UPDATED: 8:35 pm HST May 19, 2011

KAHULUI, Hawaii -- A heated discussion between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and some Maui nurses was caught on video. It's now circulating on the Internet and the exchange has angered the head of the union representing the nurses. The amateur video was taken Sunday during a public meeting with Abercrombie on Maui. The governor was responding to a question posed by a Maui Memorial Medical Center nurse about his support for fair wages compared to nurses in the private hospitals. "Hey, I didn't say that. If you want to take that attitude towards me you can. But I can tell you this. Nobody is working harder to see that more money comes in for public employees than I am," Abercrombie is seen saying on the video. … "The problem is the governor is continuing to lobby for a revenue package that apparently didn't get broad support because it didn't pass the legislature," said Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director. Perreira said he doesn't blame nurses for feeling they're being treated unfairly when their wages are about 30 percent lower than those in the private sector. "The truth is the hospital corporation revenue doesn't have anything to do with the general fund, and I think the governor is mixing apples and oranges in trying to suggest to these employees that their actions could have changed the course of outcome," said Perreira.

House panel approves bill requiring state workers to pay more toward retirement
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 8:30 PM
Jan Moller
The Times-Picayune (LA)
May 20, 2011

BATON ROUGE -- Most state workers would have to contribute 3 percent more of their pay toward their retirement next year under legislation backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal that narrowly passed a House committee Thursday. The House Retirement Committee voted 6-4 to send House Bill 479 to the floor after supporters said the change is needed because the state's retirement costs keep rising while the share that workers contribute has remained relatively stable. "If we don't do something this is just a train wreck waiting to happen," said Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, the bill's sponsor. The change, if approved by the full House and Senate, would affect members of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System, except those whose jobs are considered "hazardous duty," such as prison guards.
Employees in LASERS currently pay between 7.5 percent and 13 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, depending on their job classification, with the state paying the rest. This year the state's share amounts to about 23 percent of each state worker's salary, which would grow to about 26 percent without the change. But much of the state's contribution goes to pay off debt in the retirement system that accrued decades ago when the state failed to set aside enough money to cover its future obligations.

'Right to work' bills inspire little support
By Rebekah Metzler
Kennebec Journal (ME)
May 20, 2011

AUGUSTA -- Two bills that would affect organized labor appeared to be headed for the waste bin Tuesday after an aggressive campaign against them over the last few months. The measures were set aside on the House floor, after being pulled out of committee for lack of action. Leaders from both political parties indicated that they expect the proposals to die, by direct votes or procedurally. "Those who oppose the 'right to work' bills have been extremely galvanized, more so than I've ever seen in my 21 years in the Legislature," said Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco. "Quite frankly, (the business community) vetted this issue just like all of us have, and you don't see them clamoring for this bill." L.D. 309 and L.D. 788, sponsored by Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, would apply to workers in the private and public sectors. They would prohibit any requirements for non-union workers to pay negotiating fees to unions.

Sheriff takes charge of county law enforcement
Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News (MD)
May 19, 2011

CUMBERLAND — There’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson, who now commands the Bureau of Police along with the sheriff’s office. Allegany County commissioners put Robertson in charge Thursday evening at 5:45 p.m., when they passed a resolution formalizing the merger of the BOP and sheriff’s office, which will be completed by July 1. For now, both organizations will continue to exist, but every officer will report to Robertson. … Among the items addressed in the resolution were agreements regarding seniority. The resolution requires votes by unions representing both groups of officers or individual waivers to be signed regarding seniority issues by BOP officers. The seniority changes run counter to the collective bargaining agreement between the county and sheriffs deputies, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1521, so the changes must be negotiated and then voted on by members of that union before unification, County Attorney Bill Rudd has said. BOP officers must likewise either agree to the process through their union or individually, since they will lose seniority they have in county employment for their time at the BOP. These officers are represented by the Maryland Classified Employees Association Inc.

Budget deal: $310M more for schools, $25M for films
Karen Bouffard
Detroit News (MI)
May 20, 2011

Lansing — Cuts to K-12 education were softened under a budget deal announced Thursday that would also leave open Mound Prison in Detroit, restore some health programs and demand fewer concessions from state employees. Gov. Rick Snyder, appearing with GOP legislative leaders at a press conference, said "tremendous progress" has been made on the budget and he expects to receive the budget by May 31 to sign into law. The leaders signed an agreement they said included financial targets and budget details for every state department. The plan would divvy up $428 million in surplus 2011 revenue between K-12 schools and the state's savings account. All together, $900 million in surplus money, including unspent funds from the 2011 budget, was used to take the edge off some of the most painful cuts planned for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The deal also calls for:
$25 million for film incentives, which Snyder had originally proposed, but was cut to $10 million in the House.
Reducing the amount of concessions sought from state employees from $180 million to $145 million.
$30 million more in revenue sharing money for local governments, half of which would go to cities, villages and townships in the form of incentive grants, with the other half going to county revenue sharing.
$50 million added to the Michigan Strategic Fund for economic development, brownfield redevelopment and historic preservation.
Putting nearly $400 million in "savings accounts," including $255 million in the state's rainy day fund.
There will be no change to the universities' 15 percent cut. Community colleges would be cut by about 4 percent.

Bill forcing health care costs on public employees would hit lawmakers, too
3:10 PM, May. 19, 2011
BY CHRIS CHRISTOFF
DETROIT FREE PRESS (MI)

LANSING — Legislators wouldn’t escape, as other state employees would, the brunt of a proposed law that would require municipal, county and school employees to pay at least 20% of their health care premiums. The bill, which passed the Senate 25-13 Wednesday, could be considered by the House Oversight Committee next week. It has prompted sharp criticism from public employee unions, but support from some school and city officials. Republican senators say the 20% share of premiums would bring public employees closer to what most private sector employees pay for health benefits. Public sector union leaders say the requirement interferes with the collective bargaining process between public employers and employee unions.

Paper Chase: Library chiefs get top salaries amid layoffs
Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News (MI)
May 19, 2011

Employment contracts of the top three executives at the embattled Detroit Public Library show they draw some of the highest salaries and best benefits of public officials in the city. Executive Director JoAnne Mondowney makes $156,000 a year, has a credit card for business expenses and gets her own car, a 2010 Buick LaCrosse that cost $31,184 and comes with OnStar and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The library also will pay for work-related "travel expenses and entertainment expenses" for her and her spouse, according to the contract. Mondowney's salary is the same as Police Chief Ralph Godbee and the city's Chief Operating Officer, Chris Brown. But she and other library leaders will take a 10 percent pay cut in July. The two other top execs — Juliet Machie and Tim Cromer — have contracts directly with the library commission and can't be fired unless they are paid a year's salary, according to the documents. They each make $145,000. Mondowney's car "doesn't sit well" among employees of the system that is set to lay off 82 of its 376 workers, said Todd Kelly, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1259 that represents clerks, janitors and security staffers. "Sacrifice should start at the top," Kelly said.

Gov. Christie signs bill requiring all new public employees to move to N.J. within year of hire
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 8:25 PM
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2011, 5:46 AM
The Star-Ledger (NJ)
By Matt Friedman/Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — New Jersey to new public workers: You wanna work here, you gotta live here. Gov. Chris Christie announced today he signed a bill (S1730) into law that will require public workers hired after Sept. 1 — from teachers and cops to all local, county and state work employees — to live in the Garden State. New hires outside the state’s borders will have a year from getting the job to pack up and move. Current public workers will not be affected.

Union Preserves Court Officer Jobs With 'Welfare' Fund
Joel Stashenko
New York Law Journal (NY)
May 20, 2011

Twenty-nine New York state court officers who faced layoffs earlier this week will have jobs for another year under an agreement worked out yesterday. Dennis W. Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers' Association, said his union will make available $1.3 million from a "welfare" fund negotiated previously with the state to pay the officers at least until June 1, 2012. That money normally would go to pay for such things as scholarships for the children of court officers and professional training. … The officers whose jobs will be saved now are represented by other unions, but Mr. Quirk said their current unions have agreed that they could transfer to Mr. Quirk's union provided they are employed in New York City. Affected will be 21 officers who faced the losses of their jobs in Supreme Court in New York City, four officers in New York City Family Court, two officers in Suffolk County and two officers in Albany represented by the Civil Service Employees Association. The two Albany officers and the two in Suffolk County will have to relocate or commute to jobs in New York City. Most if not all of the 10 other court employee unions, representing about 14,000 workers, have similar welfare funds, but none has applied so far to use the money to avert the job losses. Meanwhile, court administrators and labor union officials continued yesterday to assess the impact of the court system layoffs. The Albany-based Civil Service Employees Association, the largest union representing court employees, said the layoffs are the harbinger of what public employees can expect throughout state government in the coming months. The CSEA represents about 5,900 of the 15,200 nonjudicial employees in New York's courts and 66,000 employees of the executive branch. Mr. Cuomo has estimated that between 9,800 and 15,000 jobs in executive branch agencies will be lost, but the exact number depends on negotiations with public employee unions for concessions. The courts are the first actual layoffs to be implemented. "I think what you are seeing in the courts is symptomatic of the state budget as a whole," CSEA spokesman Steven Madarasz said yesterday. "I think we are going to see it everywhere, to some extent." Still, Mr. Madarasz said the layoffs will affect faithful court employees and impede operations of the courts throughout New York. "No one should lose sight that there is a tragedy here," he said in an interview yesterday. "It is counterproductive to the state, and this will exacerbate the economic crisis. This is not job creation, this is job destruction. This is wreaking havoc on people's lives and it is absolutely not inevitable. We are giving tax breaks to millionaires while we are cutting these jobs."

 

Falls welcomes back CSEA
Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News (NY)
May 20, 2011

 

Approximately 700 union employees from across the state are returning to Niagara Falls for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) conference today through Sunday. The city also hosted CSEA in 2006 and 2008.

 

Lakewood school board OKs contract extension with support workers
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 2:04 PM
By Patrick Mahoney
Sun News (OH)

 

LAKEWOOD The school board approved two-year extensions of contracts with Locals 129 and 134 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees at its May 16 meeting. The extension for Local 129 runs from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2013. The Local 134 extension begins Sept. 1 and expires Aug. 31, 2013. Both contracts freeze employee wages at present levels. The Local 129 bargaining unit covers instructional aides and secretaries. Maintenance, custodial and food-service workers are included in Local 134.

 

Philadelphia proposes $16.5 million cuts to housing agencies
By Marcia Gelbart and Jeff Shields
Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
May 20, 2011

 

Mayor Nutter on Thursday proposed $16.5 million in housing-related cuts - including layoffs - to make up for reductions in federal and state aid to Philadelphia. Administration officials did not say how many layoffs there would be, but they acknowledged they may affect more than a half-dozen city agencies that directly or indirectly receive money from the programs being cut. Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said 21 vacant positions would also be eliminated at many of those agencies, which include the city Redevelopment Authority, the Office of Housing and Community Development, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., and the Departments of Commerce, City Planning, and Law. All reductions would take effect July 1, the start of the city's new budget year. A call to Anthony Council, president of Local 1971 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents many housing workers, was not returned.

 

Study: ‘Radical changes’ needed to fix expensive RI pensions
May 19th, 2011 at 9:34 am
by Ted Nesi
WPRI.com (RI)

 

A new report from a top liberal think-tank in Washington offers a tough indictment of Rhode Island’s public-sector pension system, warning “radical changes” will be required to shore it up. In Rhode Island, 5.7% of state and local government spending goes toward pension contributions, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the Center on Budget Policy Priorities. That’s the second-highest share in the country, topped only by Nevada’s 7.6%, and far above the national average of 3.8%, the study found. The center’s extensive new study – “A Common-Sense Strategy for Fixing State Pension Problems in Tough Economic Times” – focuses on defending defined-benefit retirement payments for government workers against conservative economists and other critics. It argues the problem is not as acute as often depicted. “Most states have generally been responsible in funding pensions,” write Elizabeth McNichol and Iris Lav, the study’s authors. But a close reading shows they do not believe Rhode Island is among those.

 

Lawmaker salaries surviving state budget cuts
Washington state lawmakers are not including their own salaries in widespread budget cuts that are poised to slash pay for state workers.
By Mike Baker
Associated Press
Seattle Times (WA)
May 20, 2011

 

OLYMPIA — Washington state lawmakers are not including their own salaries in widespread budget cuts that are poised to slash pay for other state workers — and possibly teachers. Several proposals that would have led to lower salaries for top state officials have stalled in the Legislature. Sen. Joe Zarelli, a Republican from Ridgefield who sponsored a constitutional amendment to address the issue, said he doesn't expect any such plans to pass, as they have become lost amid broader battles over a budget shortfall amounting to $5 billion. "Symbolically, it's important. But it amounts to very few dollars," Zarelli said. "You can only fight for so many things." Gov. Chris Gregoire had requested last year a pay reduction for herself and other elected officials. To do so, the Legislature first needs to pass a change to the state constitution that would allow the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials to make the alteration. Zarelli said the commission should at least have that option available. Salaries for lawmakers are currently frozen at about $42,000 per year plus a $90 per diem for each day they are in session. Gregoire earns about $167,000. Pay for elected officials has been frozen since 2008. Meanwhile, the House and Senate have already given tentative approval to plans that would cut state employee salaries by about 3 percent. The Senate plan also included a 3 percent pay cut for all K-12 employees. Negotiators are now trying to finalize a budget agreement.