PEF is calling on state lawmakers to modify the Executive Budget in several areas. Our collective action is necessary for success in the budget battle ahead.
ALBANY, NY - The doctors, nurses, technicians and social workers who provide health care services at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center are blasting the announcement Tuesday, January 31 by the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) to close the Brooklyn facility.
The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) represents the workers who want lawmakers to understand the services at risk.
"The plan to close Kingsboro is wrong and irresponsible," said PEF Vice President Pat Baker. "Brooklyn has the highest use of mental health services of any county in the state. Closing Kingsboro would leave the largest consumer of mental health services with no local inpatient care beyond short-term stays in local general hospitals," Baker said.
The OMH has not even waited for the elected representatives of the citizens to vote, it has already sent out notices announcing its plans to close Kingsboro and send patients and their families more than two-and-a-half hours away to South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island. Kingsboro serves a predominantly poor and minority population.
The mental health workers at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center want to continue providing services in an area where there is a critical need for mental health beds serving the underprivileged.
PEF is calling on state lawmakers to step in and preserve mental health care services in central Brooklyn by stopping the closure.
ALBANY, NY - "It appears, in Albany 'reform' is whatever you spin it to be," said state Public Employees Federation (PEF) Vice President Joe Fox. Fox testified today in Albany at a state legislative hearing on how the governor's Executive Budget proposal would affect the state workforce.
"The Executive Budget calls for what the governor describes as reforms to the state's pension system, Civil Service and some fundamental changes in the way the state does business," Fox said.
"PEF supports true reforms that improve state services, but in this case some of the budget proposals are way off the mark. They would undermine public service, subvert merit and fitness and throw open the door to cronyism, patronage and unrestrained waste.
"For instance, the proposal for a new state pension Tier 6 with dramatically reduced benefits and increased employee costs is called a reform, but would be very destructive to public service. It would mean a lower standard of living for future retirees, reduce the ability to recruit individuals who see public service as a career and create a mercenary mentality where the commitment to public service no longer exists.
"The governor's proposal, which would ensure new employees receive inferior benefits to their more senior co-workers, is symptomatic of the selfish, I-got-mine attitude that has allowed the wealthiest to continue to build their wealth at the expense of the 99 percent," Fox said.
"Several of the proposed reforms to civil service would shred the merit-and-fitness system that protects fairness and high standards," Fox said. "Proposals that are supposed to reduce costs by making it easier for the state to hire and transfer state employees would allow state agencies to bypass the best qualified candidates to hire or promote individuals with lower scores on competitive tests or who haven't even taken the tests.
"Still other proposed reforms in the budget would hand off state services and responsibilities to private contractors and reduce quality standards, accountability and legislative oversight," Fox added.
Members from Brooklyn lobby lawmakers in Albany to preserve health care services at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center and SUNY Downstate Hospital.
More than 50 members met individually and as a group with Brooklyn area legislators asking for their support to make sure health care is available to those in need in central Brooklyn.
The meeting, hosted by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, gave members an opportunity to educate lawmakers on the danger of losing services in an area where there is a critical need for hospital beds serving the underprivileged. A health care restructuring plan currently under consideration would deny access to lower income areas and shift services instead to more affluent communities.
It is time for our state's elected leaders to recognize that nothing gets done without workers: trained, competent, professional workers. The governor's proposed budget ignores the fact that state workers have done their share to address the state's fiscal problems.
Since 2008, the state's workforce has been reduced by 16,000 jobs. The state pension plan was changed in 2010 to create a new Tier 5 that will save state and local governments $35 billion over the next 30 years. In 2011, PEF agreed to a labor contract that freezes pay, requires workers to pay more for health insurance and cuts salaries through furloughs. This contract will save the state more than $230 million over the next four years.
The governor's proposal calls for another new pension tier that will do little, if anything, to affect the 2012-13 state budget. The Tier 6 proposal is nothing more than a false choice of accepting severely reduced pension benefits or joining an inefficient 401k style pension system. It would force public employees into a pension gamble that virtually guarantees a lower level of benefits. This proposal is similar to the misguided proposals for reforming Social Security proposed by former President George W. Bush.
Our members earned their pensions, which are reasonable. The average state pension is $19,000 per year. The current increases in pension costs don't result from increased pension benefits. They were caused by the collapse of the stock market.
Initiatives proposed in this budget will increase the privatization of key state services in agencies that serve youths and people with disabilities. The governor has also proposed "reforms" to the Civil Service system that will make it easier to appoint politically connected individuals by making who you know a more important factor in hiring than what you know.
While the overall size of the state workforce remains relatively unchanged in the budget, many state agencies remain severely short-staffed. This hinders the ability of agencies to perform their statutorily mandated mission which can only lead to wasteful and costly contracting out of state services as agencies struggle to meet their statutory mandates. For example the Department of Transportation has already lost 1,900 employees since 2000 including more than 900 engineers. They will lose another 91 employees this year including 62 engineers. During this time period DOT has increased its spending on consultant engineers even though they cost between 50 percent to 75 percent more than state employees. In the last year alone, DOT has increased its spending on consultant engineers by 22 percent.
We support a different approach to budgeting. Respect the professionalism of the state workforce and we can work together to get the job done.