04/05/2010

New PEF Ad Campaign: 'Cut the Waste, Not the Workers'

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"It's not rocket science!" a new television commercial from the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) declares. "Cut the waste, not the workers."

The waste PEF wants cut is private contractors, who cost the state $2.9 billion last year. "Nice people, but they do the same work and it costs more," says the narrator, who notes that the state could save $375 million annually by cutting the 23,000-plus consultant workforce by 50 percent.

The PEF ads began running on broadcast and cable TV statewide April 5, supplemented by print advertisements in targeted newspapers and on newspaper Web sites. The aim is to educate both the public and legislative leaders about the budget savings that can be achieved without sacrificing services and cutting the state workforce.

PEF's savings suggestions are well documented. In January, the union issued a 27-page report, "The Tip of the Iceberg," detailing the state's wasteful spending on consultants. Based on filings with the Office of State Comptroller, PEF found that the state pays thousands of consultants performing professional services an average of $160,719 per consultant annually, which is 62 percent more than it would cost to have state employees do the work.

Within weeks of the report's release, PEF president Ken Brynien, who also is an AFT vice president, was testifying before state Assembly and Senate committees. In addition to PEF's consultant reduction plan, other cost-saving recommendations Brynien offered at the hearing include: reducing overtime costs by 60 percent by hiring entry-level state employees for a savings of $33.5 million annually, and expanding the voluntary severance program for a $52 million to $170 million savings.

Brynien notes that PEF's cost-cutting suggestions more than offset the $250 million in workforce savings that Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal would extract from state employees' salary and benefits. (New York's fiscal year 2010-11 began April 1, but no budget agreement has been reached.)

PEF's message is resonating. Citing PEF's report, an April 4 editorial in the Albany Times Union, the capital city's newspaper, reads: "… New York spends in some cases nearly $224,000 to hire a private civil engineer, more than twice the $110,000 it spends in-house. It spends $190 an hour to bring in private computer software engineers, compared with the $58 it costs for a state worker in the same job. And the list goes on. A governor who is serious about cutting state spending would have addressed such glaring disparities long ago, before he asked unions to reopen their contracts."

The ad campaign is the second series of ads the union has run this year. The first series, which began running in March, pointed out that there are 4,500 fewer state jobs today than there were in 2008. "It takes people to provide service," says the narrator. More information is available on the PEF Web site. [Kathy Walsh, New York State Public Employees Federation]

April 5, 2010