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Governor Paterson's 'A Christmas Carol?'

Dec 16, 2010 11:15 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Gov. David Paterson"][/caption]Gov. David Paterson has suddenly suggested that a few of the hundreds of state workers slated to be laid off on Jan. 1 might get their jobs back -- but his explanation of how that might occur raised plenty of unanswered questions, according to today's Times Union... reporting from the lame duck governor's statewide travels, where he seems to be giving wholly different speeches and comments in each setting.

Paterson brought up the possibility of giving folks jobs back during a 90-minute forum hosted and webcast live by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. After describing some of the factors that led to his decision to lay off almost 900 workers, the governor said he would spend time over the holidays looking at "some of the more egregious situations."

"We may have more savings that we thought," Paterson continued. "And perhaps people who were going to be put in very difficult situations, a few of them, we might want to give them their jobs back."

Could we be witnessing a Dickensian personality crisis?

"When you say a few, are you talking dozens, hundreds?," asked one of the forum participants.

"No, you know, I'm just saying special cases where people have diseases, or numbers of children that will go without health insurance, that kind of thing," Paterson said. "They would be impacted more severely than -- I mean, it's going to be a severe impact for anyone to lose their job, and I feel terrible about it."

Paterson's spokeswoman Jessica Bassett said no additional details were available. "I will let the governor's comments speak for themselves," she said.

It's unclear how Paterson or the agencies under his control would go about weighing the relative health and domestic economic hardships of state workers headed for layoffs -- or if such a scheme would comport with current civil service law and labor contracts, where seniority tends to rule the day.

"I don't even know how to respond to that, to tell you the truth," said Steve Madarasz, spokesman for CSEA, after hearing the governor's statement. He noted that public employee unions have argued for months that layoffs are unnecessary and would exacerbate the effects of the state's fiscal downturn.

Layoff notices went out last week to workers around the state. The original target number was 898 jobs, although officials said the final amount will be slightly lower.