Nassau County union heads are predicting the failure of the 2012 budget and the county as well if either $150 million worth of labor concessions are forced on county workers or massive layoffs ensue.
“It’s despicable, its unfair, it’s dishonest. This budget that you’re going to pass on Sunday is going to fail like everything else you’ve been doing for the past 2 years,” CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta told members of the Nassau County Legislature during a 5 hour marathon budget session Friday.
The $150 million in concessions is only about half of the $315 million budget deficit the county is attempting to close in 2012.
“We still don’t know exactly what these cuts are going to be, we’d like to know what they are,” Correction Officers Union President Brian Sullivan said of the exact nature of the concessions the unions are being asked to give. “It’s amazing how our members are constantly made to feel that they’re numbers on a spreadsheet while they’re on the job doing it.”
Union members had requested the presence of the state oversight board in charge of Nassau’s finances to be present during negotiations, but balked when they discovered that NIFA would continue to exert a control period on the county – including a wage freeze – until 2014, even if the 2012 budget was balanced.
“Basically we walked out of there and said ‘regardless of what we do, we’re frozen for 4 more years’,” Laricchiuta said. “That kinda put a crimp in the whole ‘we like NIFA in the room deal’.”
The county legislature is set to adopt the 2012 budget on Sunday, one day before the deadline as imposed by the county charter. The reason for the delay is due to a 7 day rule that votes must take place after amendments are submitted.
Amendments submitted by Democrats call for no layoffs or tax increase by dipping into $90 million of the county’s reserve fund, something the Republican majority is unwilling to consider.
“The county comptroller and people I’ve checked with on Wall Street indicate that anybody going into the reserve fund, the bond rating plummets,” Majority Leader Peter Schmitt, R-Massapequa, said.
Republican amendments include an additional $51 million in layoffs as well as $80 million more in union concessions.
“This will never sell,” police union head James Carver said of going back to his members who have to approve a new deal.
“These numbers that they’re throwing around, not only are they astronomical, they’re unattainable,” Sullivan said of the $150 million figure. “I don’t see the shared sacrifice all the way around, I see a gun pointed at labor.”
Sullivan indicated that shared sacrifice would include residents in the form of higher taxes, which Republicans have also ruled out.
“It’s a determination by this majority not to raise taxes in the middle of a recession,” Schmitt said.
Laricchiuta indicated that the cuts would amount to 700 positions being eliminated in his union.
“You’re going to cripple this county,” he said. “There’ll be basically not one single department that’ll be able to fulfill its obligations to the residents. If this continues, Nassau County will be the highest taxed county and the least-desirable place to live and because of your decisions our home values will decrease even further and Nassau County’s going to be destroyed.”