We The People: Union contracts the “Achilles heel” of the city budget

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer explained, in a recent report, that Mayor de Blasio’s 2015 budget fails to account for new contracts with municipal unions even though all have expired. The cost of settling them would “add multi-billions” to the proposed budget and the failure to include that expense is an “Achilles heel” of the proposed budget.

The mayor reached agreement with one municipal union: the DEP Police. The 200-member force of environmental officers safeguard the New York City watershed area and aqueducts which bring water to the city. The members got a nine percent raise and each member will receive, on average, $50,000 in retroactive salary.

This won’t work for the 300,000 city workers currently working without a contract since it would cost the city $15 billion. However, this contract and the MTA s Police Department contract (17 percent raise with retroactive salary) will make it impossible for union leaders to tell members that the state and the city have no money for raises or for retroactive salary payments. A source involved in the New York City bargaining process stated that the municipal unions want raises and retroactive payments but are willing to be flexible on how new contracts will be structured.

Advocates for Long Island College Hospital and representatives of SUNY Downstate announced a proposed settlement to end litigation and implement a long term-solution to continue the operation of the hospital.

The recent release of $8 billion in New York State Medicaid “waiver” funds by the federal government improved the financial climate for health care organizations including LICH throughout the state. The money was saved from the New York State Medicare system through reforms over the past five years.

Governor Cuomo and Senator Schumer advocated for the release of the saved funds and convinced Health Secretary Sebelius and President Obama to release the funds now. If more savings can be generated by decreasing abuse and waste in the Medicaid system, that will improve the overall financial health of our healthcare system.

The Republican Party continues to fracture itself along conservative ideological lines. In Mississippi, a conservative state that has elected only five men to serve in the U.S. Senate since World War II, a primary is brewing between incumbent Thad Cochran and upstart Cam McDaniel, a lawyer and state legislator, whose support for Senate conservative firebrands Ted Cruz and Mike Lee has generated him support and contributions.

This newest Tea Party foot soldier intends unseat the Republican titan with glib promises of “doing nothing.” He stated, “I’m not going to do anything … I’m going to get the government off your back [and] let you do it for yourself.” These inane promises garnered him the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Tea Party Patriots and more than $400,000 in campaign contributions.

Cochran, a 41-year GOP veteran, could become the chairperson of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee if he survives the primary. It makes one wonder what conservative zealots would say to get elected when running against a Democrat.

A former Tea Party darling, Representative Michael Grimm, received the unabashed endorsement of the New York State Conservative Party despite his recent altercation with reporter Michael Scotto and nagging questions about his campaign finances. Conservative Party Chair Michael Long announced his full support for the Grimm re-election campaign.

Meanwhile, reasonable members of the Republican Party like Senators Dan Coats (Indiana) and Dean Heller (Nevada) announced a new willingness to work with Democrats on long term unemployment relief.

Senator Rob Portman [R-Ohio] stated, “I … believe that we can solve this if Democrats want to.” The “this” is what the federal government should do for millions of workers whose unemployment insurance has run out.

These Republicans are proposing a bill to retroactively restore the benefit for a 90-day period if the benefits end when a worker refuses reasonable “suitable” employment or job training. It’s a reason to hope for the bipartisan cooperation needed to pass legislation.

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