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State budget offers cap on arbitration decisions

2013-01-22T18:18:00Z 2013-01-22T18:38:41Z State budget offers cap on arbitration decisionsMAURY THOMPSON -- Glens Falls Post-Star
January 22, 2013 6:18 pm  • 

Glens Falls officials were aghast in December when an arbitration panel granted the union that represents city police officers a 13 percentage point wage increase in increments over four years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal on Tuesday included a proposal to rein in such significant increases.

Cuomo called for barring an arbitration panel from increasing compensation by more than 2 percent a year if a municipality meets criteria for a “fiscally distressed” municipality.

Employee compensation should follow the same 2 percent guidelines that municipalities face with the 2 percent tax cap, Cuomo said in his state budget address.

Arbitration panels also would be required to take into account the rising cost of health care when ruling on contracts with distressed municipalities, under Cuomo’s proposal.

The proposed change would be welcomed by Glens Falls officials, given their recent experience with arbitration, said 3rd Ward Councilman Scott Watson, who chairs the city Common Council Personnel Committee.

“I would fully support that measure,” Watson said.

Watson said unions might be willing to stay at the bargaining table longer if there is a cap on how much an arbitration panel can grant.

State Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said he was pleased to hear the governor’s arbitration reform proposal.

“Certainly, the city of Glens Falls just went through this, and they’re not alone,” he said.

Stec said he also was pleased with the governor’s proposal to expedite long-term savings from the new “Tier VI” pension plan, which has less generous benefits for recently hired and future newly hired employees.

Municipalities and school districts would pay less now, but would not see as significant of a drop in payments in future years when the full impact of the new pension plan kicks in.

“It will stabilize their payment rather than having it fluctuate the way it’s doing right now,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury.

“Because pensions are such a large portion of any local government’s budget, that one proposal could have significant positive impact to every local municipality and school district in the state,” Stec said.

The pension plan apparently does not involve borrowing, Little said.

“From my understanding it’s just that the state won’t get the money right away,” she said.

Little said she was pleased that the governor’s budget plan includes legislation she proposed that would eliminate on April 1, 2014, all reports the state requires local governments and school districts to file, unless the state Mandate Relief Council authorizes continuing them.

State agencies would have to justify to the Mandate Relief Council why any specific report should be continued.

Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, said the governor’s budget proposal does not offer enough mandate relief.

“If he touched on all of them that are going to be included in his budget, then I would say it’s lacking greatly in any meaningful mandate relief,” he said.

Jordan said he also is concerned that the governor still is vague about his plan for three casinos in upstate New York.

But he is pleased that the governor has presented his budget plan in a timely fashion.

“At least the governor recognizes the need to get that (budget) information out there so these discussions can begin,” he said.

Little said she was pleased with his proposal for upstate tourism markets and that he did not propose closing any prisons in the Adirondack region.

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