By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Both houses of the State Legislature have voted to approve the state’s new budget, but two of Brooklyn’s Republican legislators said the fight over funding for health care programs and other expenditures is far from over.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said she voted against portions of the budget “because it fell short on several critical issues.” Malliotakis said she was particularly upset that the state’s $135 billion spending plan did not allocate funds to save Long Island College Hospital or do anything to assist the fiscally troubled State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.
The budget contains cuts to state funded programs for the developmentally disabled, according to Malliotakis. “I stood with my assembly Republican colleagues in fighting cuts for programs and services supporting the developmentally disabled to the bitter end, even offering an amendment on the assembly floor that would have restored the funding in full. I am extremely disheartened that, rather than focusing on the waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system, this budget targeted people with austism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy as a source of cost savings,” she said.
Malliotakis warned that the budget cuts could devastate organizations like the Guild for Exceptional Children in Bay Ridge, a non-profit group that serves thousands of developmentally disabled clients by providing housing, job training, and vocational programs.
“I fear that providers in my district like the Guild for Exceptional Children may be forced to close their doors as a result, which is why I will continue fighting to make sure New York’s mentally disabled community receives the support it needs and deserves,” Malliotakis said.
In addition, she charged that the budget includes more debt for the state. “In addition, the budget included $5 billion in new debt issuance that will add to the current $243 billion tab, which our families cannot afford,” she said.
The assembly gave its final approval of the budget on March 28. The senate had voted for the budget a day earlier, on March 27.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) said he voted for the final budget package, but added “as far as I am concerned, negotiations are not over.”
Golden said certain budget items, such as funding for SUNY Downstate and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, would have to be re-visited at some point in the near future.
Golden also said, however, that there is much in the new budget to celebrate. “I am especially proud of the commitment this budget makes to job creation and economic support for small business and entrepreneurs,” said Golden, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation, and Entrepreneurship.
“I am also excited to see that we have saved the Brooklyn HealthWorks program which has helped over 1,000 small businesses, and that we have cleared barriers so more people to qualify for the Self Employment Assistance Program,” he said.
“We have taken many steps forward on behalf of all New Yorkers with this year’s budget. But again, and it is worth repeating, that if we do not address the health and disability issues I have mentioned, as a government, we will fail many,” Golden warned.