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August 17, 2006

Governor vetoes union-backed changes to state's Taylor Law

In an important victory for The Business Council and for taxpayers, Governor Pataki has vetoed a series of proposed changes to the Taylor Law that would have driven taxes higher and harmed vital public services.

The vetoes include S.3178, which would have given public-employee union members automatic raises up to 2.5 percent a year--on top of negotiated increases--if a union went a year without agreeing to a new contract and the public employer was found not to be bargaining in good faith. That bill would also weaken the Taylor Law's penalties against public-employee strikes.

"The automatic penalties imposed upon public employers by this bill...are excessive and would only serve to destroy the level playing field required for fair negotiations," Governor Pataki said in his veto message. "The substantial costs associated with the bill would be borne by the already over-burdened taxpayers of this state."

He also criticized the Legislature's plan to weaken anti-strike provisions of the Taylor Law.

"Public employees and their representatives can never be justified in taking illegal action that endangers the public and deprives them of vital services," the Governor said. "If anything, time and experience have demonstrated that even tougher penalties are warranted for public employees who engage in illegal job actions and endanger the public."

"We congratulate the Governor on standing up to the powerful special-interest groups and vetoing this anti-taxpayer bill," Business Council President/CEO Daniel B. Walsh said. S.3178 and related bills, he said "would have shifted the balance of negotiating power in collective bargaining further away from public employers and thus lead to higher taxpayer costs in new employee contracts."

Walsh had urged the Governor to veto the measures in a July letter.

“Something is wrong when the Legislature's responsibility to balance the concerns of taxpayers and public employees skews overwhelmingly in the direction of giving unions more, and charging taxpayers more,” Walsh wrote.

S.3178 was sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach and Assemblyman Peter Abbate. It was opposed by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), New York State Association of Counties and New York State Conference of Mayors.

"We are delighted at the governor's action," NYSSBA's David Ernst told the Buffalo News. "That measure would increase local costs and, of necessity, local taxes...We are pleased, as property taxpayers should be as well.”