Labor Leader: ‘How Many Times Does He Have to Tell Us He Doesn’t Want to Be Governor?’

ALBANY—A top official at NYSUT is very upset with “a growing pattern of problems” from David Paterson, and said openly that he doesn’t see how the union could support him for election.

“If the election were today, absolutely not,” said Alan Lubin, NYSUT’s executive vice president. “By 2010, it depends. What we’ve yet to see is a plan for the future, what see is day-to-day cutting up of things important to working New Yorkers.”

“One of my staff said to me today, ‘how many times does he have to tell us he doesn’t want to be governor?'” Lubin said. “I don’t even know that if we did support him we could get our members to vote for him.”

He was disappointed with a slew of “unbelievable” vetoes issued by Paterson yesterday. One bill that NYSUT had lobbied for–a measure that would allow special act school districts to carry a four percent fund balance, as other schools can–was axed, and Lubin said no one at the union received a courtesy call from Paterson’s staff saying the veto was in the pipeline. (This has been the M.O. of prior administrations.)

These comments are more intense than I’ve previously heard from Lubin, or any other statewide union leader, on the record since the state budget. Labor leaders have expressed concern that they are not being listened to; labor has been a natural constituency for Democrats in New York.

NYSUT has members in most communities in the state, and has in the past run television ads against Paterson. This year, the union has donated $2,500 to the Andrew Cuomo 2010 committee (the office is not specified), but nothing to Paterson’s re-election campaign, according to the most recent filing.

Paterson was also attacked by an advocate for disabled people, Christine Zachmeyer, who said it was “unconscionable and highly ironic that a governor with a disability has vetoed” a bill that would have mandated improved access for the disabled at polling places.

Paterson cited the fiscal crisis facing the state in his veto messages. In relation to the bill pushed by NYSUT, he wrote that “I am very sympathetic to assisting these crucial elements of our educational system. But that result is not cost-free.”

“While the Director of the Budget has discretion to approve these funds as a cost factor, experience teaches that enactment of this bill will inevitably lead to that result,” Paterson continued. “Indeed, that is the very purpose of the bill. The Division of the Budget estimates that this cost of such inclusion will be $5 million in the next fiscal year. I cannot allow the imposition of this cost, given the State’s present fiscal straits.”

Labor Leader: ‘How Many Times Does He Have to Tell Us He Doesn’t Want to Be Governor?’