Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York state budget officially passed last week. As predicted when the budget first made its appearance as a sort of suggestion, panic began to set in as citizens of various stripes noted the extensive cuts, primarily to health care and education. Although these two are the biggies, there are many smaller things that people may not realize will be drastically reduced, and there are a few things that have been surprisingly spared. Here are a few of each:
• Senior citizen centers
With the consolidation of various Human Services departments, many areas of aid for our “neediest citizens” are disappearing. The main funding stream to get the ax is known as Title XX, an arbitrary allocation from the governor’s office. Losing this is going to cost 105 centers around $25 million. Critics of this particular cut say that in the long run, it will cost not only human life but more monetary expenditure, as well, as seniors are forced to choose nursing homes or facilitated living rather than continuing on their own with the help of these centers.
Of the 66 prisons in New York, it is likely that 5 or 6 will be closed soon. The budget calls for the elimination of 3,700 beds in prisons across the state, which will save around $72 million. This will likely lead to extensive job loss in the prison system, which has many communities—particularly in upstate New York—worried. Cuomo has set up a committee to help decide which prisons should close, so that the closures will be somewhat even across the state to lessen the economic impact.
• Autistic Children
Billy Wharton wrote a lovely article for Examiner.com, which passionately details the downfall of sweetheart Ethan, a 3-year-old autistic boy, who is being adversely affected by the budget through the gutting of Early Intervention services. These include home visits, which scientific studies show are more effective in helping these children than visits to centers. Although Wharton’s article comes off as a bit melodramatic, the intention is pure, and the argument stands that cuts to this particular human service are possibly more damaging than the fiscal issues they resolve.
• LGBT youth shelters
Half of homeless people are youth under the age of 25. Forty percent of these youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Many cannot go to traditional shelters due to discrimination, so a very small number of shelters specifically for LGBT youth have sprung up in New York. Of the 108 available beds at youth homeless shelters, 37 will likely be cut. Some good news though, the Primary Prevention Incentive Program which would have consolidated multiple human services areas was rejected in the final legislation. Still, the affected areas are only receiving half of the funding received in the past, which includes the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), the program that directly affects the LGBT homeless youth.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is receiving massive cuts through the Cuomo budget, including a $100 million chunk to be diverted elsewhere. Where did that go? Well, no one seems to know exactly. Still, good news for New Yorkers at least, the MTA said in March that they will not have to raise fares or reduce services as other cost efficiency plans have been implemented.
A group of popular agriculture programs which fund research, education and promotion were slated to receive only $1.2 million collectively in Cuomo’s original executive budget. However, in the final budget, the group will receive $5.6 million.
Whether or not this remained unaffected in the final budget is uncertain. However, in Cuomo’s initial proposal, the nanotechnology research in New York, including the Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration in Albany, were given considerable funding. The theory is that this will promote innovation and create jobs. Highly specialized jobs, of course.
• Environmental programs
The environment and green initiatives are usually the first things to go when deficits need to shrink. However, Cuomo has protected the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) keeping it at a stable $134 million. Also spared cuts were the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Parks. Perhaps he is a Democrat after all.