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Cuomo says NY can’t employ people in unneeded jobs

NEW YORK CITY — Democratic Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state cannot continue to employ people at prisons or other public facilities if their jobs are no longer needed.

“I understand the economic consequences of losing state jobs. The answer can’t be we are going to employ state workers who literally have no function,” Cuomo said after visiting Manhattan Psychiatric Center, a hospital run by the state’s Office of Mental Health. The governor-elect is touring state-run facilities to assess their operations.

Earlier in the day, Cuomo visited Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. In 1983, his father, Mario Cuomo, then-governor, was forced to resolve a tense 53-hour standoff at the prison after inmates took 17 guards hostage.

The governor-elect said touring the two places reminded him that he must balance his desire to cut the state budget with the knowledge such facilities are “literally taking care of human beings.” But he also reiterated his plan to consolidate some public services, even if it means cutting jobs.

He said some prisons in New York are underused and no longer needed but the state continues to employ people to run them.

He referred to the Tryon Residential Center, a juvenile facility in Johnstown, about 40 miles northwest of Albany, that has had no inmates since July. It has continued to employ about 30 people, however, because of a state law requiring workers to receive a one-year notice for such closures.

Cuomo acknowledged he would have difficulty enacting changes to the system, saying the Legislature typically votes to protect state jobs.

“Everything is a tough sell in Albany. Everything is hard,” he said.

Bruce Feig, an Office of Mental Health official who joined Cuomo on the tour, said he recognized the state’s budget realities and said he was willing to seek ways to make the agency and its facilities work more efficiently. Cuomo has said he would not raise taxes as governor and has promised cuts to usually protected state programs like health care and education.

“If the health care dollar is reduced, sure, we’re going to take our share of health care cuts,” Feig said, adding that it meant his agency and others would have to “figure out a way to work smarter.”