Press-Republican

March 16, 2013

State may restore funding for developmentally disabled

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — PORT HENRY — Providers say the local impact from the governor’s proposed cuts to disability services would be devastating if they are passed with the 2013-14 budget.

But the budget proposals from the State Legislature this week restored $120 million for the disability-services programs that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had removed in his spending plan.

The $120 million would also eliminate federal matching funds, so the actual loss to the programs would be $240 million.

The final vote on the state’s 2013-14 budget is still yet to come, however.

WOULD HAVE CUT JOBS

Locally, Mountain Lake Services would lose more than $2 million from its $42 million annual budget, Executive Director Marty Nephew said.

“We would still have provided services, but not at the same levels. We’re fortunate the legislature voted to restore it.”

Nephew said that as many as 65 jobs would be lost if the funding is withheld.

Mountain Lake Services, based in Port Henry, provides services to people with developmental disabilities and their families. It employs 727 people at facilities in 16 of the 18 towns in Essex County.

In a news release, State Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) applauded the action to restore the funding.

“In our communities, we always believe in lending a hand to those who need it most, and this proposed budget cut would have taken hundreds of millions away from people who rely on this assistance. I’m pleased my colleagues in both the Assembly and Senate took action to ensure that would not happen.

‘ALREADY SHOESTRING’

Both the State Senate and Assembly passed the measures in their budget proposals on Tuesday, removing the 6 percent cut to private, nonprofit providers of support to citizens with developmental disabilities from the governor’s original budget plan.

“Providers of services to the developmentally disabled do a fantastic job helping our most vulnerable members of society on enough of a shoestring budget as it is,” Stec said in the release. 

“The least we can do is ensure they have the funding they need to continue caring for these vulnerable members of our society in the dignified manner they deserve.”

CLOSED-DOOR TALKS

The Assembly passed a budget proposal of $141.96 billion, a 4.7 percent increase from state fiscal year 2012-13. 

In contrast, Cuomo’s $143 billion budget proposal would increase state spending about 2 percent. It includes no new taxes; it just extends some business taxes that were due to expire.

The Assembly budget increases spending more than the governor’s even though it is for less money because it makes greater cuts in some areas.

An estimated $1.4 billion budget gap is closed by the Assembly’s plan, with $1 billion in spending reductions and $331 million in tax extenders. Besides the disabilities restoration, it increases aid to municipalities statewide, helps rebuild after Hurricane Sandy and makes restorations to social-services programs.

The Senate version is similar to the Assembly’s but also removes funding for enforcement of the NY SAFE Act, which placed controls on firearms ownership.

How the three budget proposals are finally reconciled depends on closed-door talks now taking place in Albany.

Cuomo and legislative leaders say they hope to complete budget negotiations and pass a package by March 21 — 10 days before the statutory deadline.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com