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Statewide vigils against Albany layoffs today

Dec 29, 2010 7:01 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="State employee unions rallied against earlier cuts in the state work force last spring, as seen in this Long Island Press image. "][/caption]The two largest public workers unions are mounting a series of coordinated vigils across the state as a last-ditch effort to plead for the 800-odd workers targeted for layoff as of January 1, including large swaths of the state's Departments of Environmental Conservation, Parks, Motor Vehicles, and Transportation.The largest gathering, Capitol Confidential reports today, will be will be held in West Capitol Park in Albany starting at 4:30 PM where "Leaders and members of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) will gather to call out Gov. David Paterson on the layoffs. Union representatives will light hundreds of candles to symbolize the services being 'snuffed out' should the layoff of 902 state employees go forward December 31, as planned. PEF President Kenneth Brynien and CSEA President Danny Donohue will attend the largest gathering at the state Capitol in Albany. Candlelight vigils also will take place in Hornell, Elmira, Endicott, Utica and Poughkeepsie." All that, according to a joint press release from the unions. A similar rally that was to have been held at the entrance road to state-owned Belleayre Ski Center in Ulster County was postponed from Monday due to the blizzard and has been rescheduled for Friday, Dec. 31, at noon.

The massive job cuts and service reductions -- which local toll booth workers on the Rip Van Winkle have indicated will effect their ranks, as well -- may be a sign of things to come, according to a recent piece in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which notes how incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to limit state spending in the face of a $9 billion budget gap next year and expected deficits of more than $40 billion over the next three years. Cuomo has not ruled out additional layoffs even though the ones being imposed by outgoing Gov. David Paterson are the largest since the early 1990s.

As the state plans to lay off as many as 900 workers at year's end, some of the effects are already becoming obvious. Outgoing Gov. David Paterson has warned that the layoffs may mean longer lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other reductions in state services. But state officials have yet to fully detail how the layoffs will affect services or specifically detail how many layoffs are occurring at each agency. Moreover, state officials have indicated that the total number of layoffs may be less than 900 because some laid-off workers may find jobs within other departments. Pink slips went out earlier this month.

"Until agencies have a chance to regroup after the work force reduction takes effect at the end of the year and try to redesign and reconfigure the delivery of programs and services, it's hard to say at this point what additional impact there will be," said Eric Kriss, spokesman for Paterson's budget office.

Still, some state agencies are quietly looking to either sell or close facilities because the layoffs will mean there won't be people to man them. And local governments and residents are considering stepping in to keep some places open, such as the Stony Kill education center in Dutchess County.