"There has to be more equity," he said. "The current system favors the rich at the expense of the middle class, despite all of the chicanery on Wall Street. It's not right."
NYSUT wants to take it a step further, requesting a "modest" tax increase on those who make more than $250,000 a year. Instituting such a tax could generate substantial revenue, Lubin said.
"Asking those who can afford to pay a little bit more could generate $6 billion in revenue," he said.
Cleary also suggested that the state look at other places to trim the fat.
"In the first place, let's take a look at all of the consultants the state hires to do work public employees can do at half the cost," she said. "These are outrageous and unnecessary costs."
"We need to consolidate some state departments," he said. "There's a lot of waste that can be eliminated."
The unions also emphasized that their members are taxpayers, too.
"We're a microcosm of the state of New York," Madarasz said. "There's not a lot of difference between a CSEA member and the average New Yorker."
And they're suffering, too.
"Our members experience the stresses of the declining economy and have also been hurt by the economic downturn," Ianuzzi said. "Teachers, too, have seen their savings evaporate, their housing values decline and are anxious about their jobs and the economy's future."
In such desperate times, the unions said they're more than willing to work with the state to come up with a proposal that satisfies all needs.
"We want this to work," Madarasz said. "If it fails, it's bad for every New Yorker."
Madarasz said CSEA representatives have made several suggestions to the governor's office, including the millionaire's tax, departmental consolidation and enforcing the collection of taxes on cigarettes sold to non-Native Americans on reservations, but those suggestions have "been ignored."
"We've offered a number of ideas, and they've been ignored," he said.
In all, union representatives say this budget proposal fails New Yorkers.
"This budget nickels and dimes the average New Yorker, and we're just trying to pay our bills," Cleary said. "It just does not make sense."
For more on the budget, see "Special Budget Report: Gov. Paterson's Budget Proposal Explained" on cnylink.com