ALBANY -- Now that there is a 2 percent property tax cap in the state, towns, counties and school districts need to see changes in work rules that govern labor contracts between municipalities and public sector unions, according to a coalition of government officials and business groups.
On Tuesday the 11-member group, working under the name Let NY Work, offered up a list of changes they say would reduce the cost of local public employment and allow localities to live within the new 2 percent cap. They were led by the state Business Council's Acting President Heather Briccetti, along with members of the school boards and superintendents associations.
"There are a lot of recommendations out there," Briccetti said.
"Providing local services, municipal services entails personnel ... the biggest component of municipal budgets is the cost of personnel. ... Now that we're in the era of a tax cap it's more important than ever that those costs are kept under control," said Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors.
While the group offered some long-standing criticisms against laws that govern bids on public works projects and the Triborough Amendment, which keeps the conditions of union contracts in place even if a contract is expired, they also blasted some lesser-known aspects of public employment labor law.
For example, Baynes noted when police and firefighter unions can't reach a contract with their cities or towns, they go to binding arbitration, which is done behind closed doors and takes the discussion out of the hands of city or town managers.
"They are unelected," Baynes said of arbitrators. One Let NY Work suggestion was to limit the number of times a union can use arbitrators.
Coalition members stress they are not trying to de-unionize the state. "New York will never be Wisconsin," said Brian Sampson, executive director of the business group Unshackle Upstate.
Still, the state's major public sector union, the Civil Service Employees Association, disagreed, reacting angrily to both the organization's ideas and to the governor's involvement.
"The package of so-called public sector reforms put forward under the banner of the Let NY Work coalition -- apparently at the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- is another despicable broadside on working people," CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz said.
A Cuomo spokesman said the governor was not involved in Let NY Work's efforts to draw up a list.
And Briccetti noted that the coalition was responding to a challenge by the Cuomo administration to show them examples of costly mandates and how they could be changed.
The lieutenant governor stood at the Business Council's annual meeting at the Sagamore and said 'show us the list,' " Sampson said, referring to Robert Duffy, who is Cuomo's point man on numerous economic issues.
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