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Working for the state, and fracking wastewater in Pa.

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State workers are getting tons of overtime, prison inmates are working for the DMV, and the state's top worker has taken a pay cut.

State employees
Gannett's Albany bureau is reporting that the state's job slashing has led to an increase in overtime for some workers:

In some cases, workers doubled their pay in overtime, while some agencies' overtime soared amid staffing woes. For example, at the Marcy Correctional Facility in central New York, overtime jumped from $620,403 in 2009 to $2.4 million last year. At the Broome Developmental Center, overtime increased 88 percent — from $4.5 million to $8.5 million.

Gannett reports that overtime payouts increased by almost $5 million between 2009 and 2010.

Meanwhile the state employee who picks up your call to the DMV could also be a ward of the state.  The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that inmates at the state's all-female maximum security prison are working at a call center:

The center employs 39 women who can make up to $1.14 an hour. All must have a high school or equivalency diploma and commit to working there for a year. Prisoners don’t have access to DMV computers or any license-holder information. Anyone convicted of a crime involving telephone, credit card or computer fraud can’t work in the center. Calls are monitored at random, state officials said.

At the (way) other end of the pay scale, Governor Cuomo has forfeited nearly $9,000 in salary, in the form of a five percent cut, as one of his first acts as governor.  It's an offensive move in what could shape up to be a pay freeze war with public employees.  The Times Union reports:

Certainly, an across-the-board public sector wage freeze would be difficult to carry out due to numerous legal and political obstacles. Talking to reporters Monday afternoon, Cuomo said he believed local pay freezes were essentially a local issue, and he's unlikely to broach the topic in his address on Wednesday. Still, calls for such a move are growing. Cuomo has vowed to make a 2 percent property tax cap a top priority, and with a looming budget gap of at least $9 billion, state aid cuts are a good bet too.

Hydrofracking wastewater
The Associated Press reports in the Post-Standard that Pennsylvania is the only state that lets natural gas drillers dump wastewater into local waterways:

State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants, but allowed any existing operations to continue discharging water into rivers. At least 3.6 million barrels of the waste were sent to treatment plants that empty into rivers during the 12 months ending June 30, according to state records. That is enough to cover a square mile with more than 8 1/2 inches of brine.

The report is a great primer about the politics of wastewater and fracking - it's a must read for stakeholders considering hydraulic fracturing in New York.

Up and down
The Buffalo News is reporting that the Buffalo Niagara region saw a drop in its manufacturing index in December.  That means factories were less productive after a booming November:

But Mikhail I. Melnik, a Niagara University economist who tracks the monthly index of the National Association of Purchasing Management — Buffalo, said the December decline could be more of a short-term blip than a sign that a longer-term slowdown is beginning. “Although I do expect a slowdown in growth as we enter 2011, the statistics from December are insufficient to fully support this point,” Melnik said. “I would like to interpret the pullback in the index as not necessarily a sign of weakness, but a sign of uncertainty.”

DEC top job still open
The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that the Cuomo administration is hung up on who will head the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.  That's an important post as New York mulls over hydrofracking regulations.  It's also a controversial post, following the resignation of the last DEC chief after memos leaked that implied that job cuts at the agency could affect environmental safety.  The paper reports there are nine candidates for the job.

Political contributions
Business and trade groups are now top dog when it comes to political contributions, outpacing union donations by more than 3 to 1.  The Gannett Albany bureau reports in the Democrat and Chronicle:

Businesses in the real estate and construction sector donated the most in 2009-10, $13.8 million, followed by lawyers and registered lobbyists, $8.1 million. The health care industry donated $8 million, followed by insurance and banking concerns, $6.8 million.

Loan program renewal
Erie County's executive Chris Collins is calling for the extension of a loan program for nonprofits that he says has created more than a thousand jobs.  The Buffalo News reports:

Collins is urging the Legislature to vote on an extension Thursday, at its first meeting of the new year, to ensure any future projects are not delayed or put at risk. While Collins said he was “optimistic” the program would be extended, he conceded he was unsure how much support it has. He said the Legislature’s six Republicans favor extending the program but did not know how many of the nine Democrats would back it. The program would need a total of eight votes to be extended.

Monroe County shakeup
The resignation of Monroe County's airport director has scuttled plans to separate the county's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and its Finance Department.  That's because the budget director - who would have headed the OMB - will now be the airport director.  Jill Terreri at the Democrat and Chronicle untangles the web.

Rising cable rates

Time Warner Cable rates are going up in the Syracuse region, reports the Post-Standard.  Increases vary by what you subscribe to and where you live, but the increase will hover around 7 percent.

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