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Miami-Dade Commissioners "Throw Budget Into Disarray"

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- With a warning from Mayor Carlos Gimenez that it would "throw our budget into disarray," Miami-Dade Commissioners Tuesday overrode his veto of their earlier vote to re-instate five percent pay cuts that had been imposed on county employees.

Gimenez called the vote, 9-4, with Linda Bell, Rebeca Sosa, Steve Bovo and Sally Heyman dissenting, "completely irresponsible."

The Mayor was particularly taken aback by the move, given that he was on the cusp of reaching a much less expensive compromise with unions representing county workers.

The reversal of the five percent paycut, Gimenez said, leaves a $55 million mid-year hole in the county budget.

"I have to balance this budget, which I will," Gimenez said.  "There's going to be a round of layoffs, people are going to lose their jobs, services will be cut."

Jackson Memorial Hospital will have a time of it, having only recently emerged from insolvency.  Jackson's board had just reached a compromise pay deal with its employees, a deal now negated by the commission action.

"We'll have to figure out if and how we can deal with it," said Jackson Health Trust CEO Carlos Migoya.  "This will be a big challenge for us at Jackson."

A union rep for hospital workers said the solution, ironically, is to hire more people in order to rein in out of control overtime.

A spokesman for all the county unions said the five percent they surrendered four years ago was supposed to be temporary.

"They gave this money up, hundreds of millions of dollars," Said Mark Richard, the unions' attorney.  "They and their families sacrificed when the county was in hard times."

Commissioners who opposed the mayor said the deficit can be covered with huge reserves being held by departments like Water and Sewer, through attrition and greater efficiency, not job cuts .

"We keep hearing about all of the drastic things that will have to be done, but we don't tell the public the whole truth," said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who voted to override the mayor.

Transit workers said if the mayor wants to trim staff, he could begin up on the top floor of County Hall.

"He needs to start with his own administration offices," said Jeffrey Mitchell, a Metrorail worker and union officer. "There's nobody that works in my bargaining unit that makes $250,000 a year like some in his office."

The mayor told CBS4's Gary Nelson cuts will begin immediately.  Layoffs, however, require 21 days notice and history has shown a lot can happen in Miami-Dade County Hall in 21 days.

Last year, when the county refused to raise property taxes, Gimenez said that hundreds of employees would have to be laid off, many libraries would be closed and some fire stations shuttered.  None of it  happened.  With the use of reserves, shaking the change from the cushions, and acquiring grants, the cuts were largely avoided.

As of late Tuesday the mayor's office had not detailed which employees and public services would be affected by the cuts he intends to implement.

"I will, of course, try to avoid cutting police and fire," Gimenez told CBS4's Nelson.

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