ALBANY -– Don’t look for a repeat in Albany of the kinds warfare with public employee unions that have stalled work at Wisconsin’s state Capitol, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo insisted today.
"There are all the differences in the world between what we're proposing here and what he's proposing," Cuomo said today of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Cuomo is facing growing unrest by New York’s public employee unions over his plans to cut the workforce by as many as 9,800 state workers unless unions agree to a number of cost-cutting concessions, including a wage freeze and some sort of pension cost controls.
"Do we have the same basic situation where you have a state that has a deficit? Yes," Cuomo said after an event on Long Island this afternoon.
"But we are handling it two very different ways, both programmatically and stylistically," the New York governor said.
Cuomo stood up for collective bargaining rights -– which the Wisconsin governor wants to restrict as a way to cut state expenses there. Cuomo did note his idea for "recalibration" of matters like salaries and pension costs for government workers to help the state resolve its $10 billion deficit.
But he signaled Albany will not become Madison.
"We’re going out of our way in this state to work together. We have the task forces that we’re talking about where we put everyone at the table," Cuomo said. "We have the private sector at the table. We have labor unions at the table. We have government officials. Local government. My approach has been we’re in a tough place, this is a tough time. Let’s all come together and see how we can work this out together, and everyone will do their piece."
Asked if the idea of collective bargaining is valid, Cuomo said, "Certainly."
"I am a long-term supporter of the labor movement," he added.
Cuomo’s optimistic words come as the sides here are taking a breather –- the Legislature is on vacation until Monday -– before serious budget fights break out in Albany over the next six weeks leading up to the April 1 fiscal year start.
The Democratic governor’s thoughts also come as Republican governors from around the country are siding with the embattled Wisconsin chief executive -– going so far as to start a "Stand with Scott" web page to back his agenda.
-- Tom Precious