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Paterson planning for mass layoffs

ALBANY (AP) — Gov. David A. Paterson said Tuesday he’s putting together a plan that would lay off thousands of state government workers at the beginning of next year to help balance the state budget.

Paterson said he’ll direct state agencies to begin picking positions that could be eliminated starting Jan. 1.

That date marks the expiration of a no-layoffs pledge Paterson gave public employee unions last year in exchange for an agreement to reduce pension costs. It would also be the day he leaves office. A final decision on layoffs would fall to his successor.

“It’s the only way we’re going to get $250 million in work force reductions from public employees. … We are in the elementary stages of establishing a plan,” Paterson said. “The reality is right now it takes a long period of time to schedule the layoffs. I want this ready to go for the next governor.”

Paterson has been calling for concessions from state worker unions, including a delay in a 4 percent raise that was scheduled to kick in April 1.

A federal judge last week rejected Paterson’s plan to reduce the state payroll through once-a-week furloughs. Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the unions, Judge Lawrence Kahn concluded the administration failed to prove it had exhausted other measures and that breaking negotiated contracts was a necessity.

The governor has imposed a general hiring freeze on executive agencies, slowed state contract payments and issued a series of short-term spending measures that have limited spending while insisting lawmakers accept further cuts in a budget for the year.

State leaders are facing a $9.2 billion deficit and haven’t been able to agree on a proposed $130 billion budget covering the fiscal year that started April 1.