Thursday, February 01, 2007

Never Believe

That elections don't matter. From an E-Newsletter from the New York Nonprofit Press:

Governor’s Budget Draws Praise
from Human Service Providers

Governor Eliot Spitzer’s inaugural Executive Budget presented yesterday is drawing broadly favorable reviews from nonprofit human service providers and advocates. As widely reported, the $120 billion budget includes proposals to increase and revise formulas for school aid, broaden access to Child Health Plus enrollment and offer property tax savings for the middle class. In addition, Governor Spitzer has proposed a wide range of new or continued initiatives of particular interest to the human services sector.

“Putting aside the debate over reductions in health care reimbursement, this is a pro-child, pro-senior, pro-human service budget,” said Ron Soloway, Managing Director of Government and External Relations for UJA-Federation.

“Overall, we are very optimistic,” said Fatima Goldman, Executive Director/CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “This is a deeper investment in human service programs than we have seen for many years. It is heartening to see.”

“We are extremely excited that the Governor continued the COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments) that were started last year,” said Allison Sesso, Deputy Director of the Human Services Council of New York City. The budget includes more than $181 million for the second year of 2.5% COLAs in a range of program sectors including substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental health, mental retardation and developmental disabilities and child welfare. “It looks like the Governor recognizes that recruitment and retention are issues and he has created a budget that addresses those issues,” said Sesso.

Governor Spitzer also took it upon himself to add funding for several programs not included in Executive Budget submissions during the Pataki administration. “Unlike typical history, the Governor has put in almost all the legislative additions that were made last year,” said Soloway. Among the many programs baselined by the Governor were the Summer Youth Employment Program, funds for Naturally-Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS) and $3.2 million for the Communities of Color HIV/AIDS services initiatives. “We could go through a pretty extensive list,” said Soloway.

“We are thrilled that the Governor has incorporated many programs that the legislature has had to fund year after year,” said Susan Stamler of United Neighborhood Houses. “We are particularly thankful to receive full funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program well before the start of the program. These additional funds will support the increase in the minimum wage.”

“We are delighted,” said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, in response to a proposed 24% increase for the State Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) which supports charitable food pantries and soup kitchens. “Governor Spitzer is leading both with his head and his heart. We hope the Legislature provides at least as much funding as he proposed.”

For the first time, the Executive Budget includes funding for civil legal services -- $4.6 million in funding. “We commend the Governor for proposing an increased investment in access to justice, and for proposing that this access be a line item in the budget,” said Anne Erickson, President and CEO of the Empire Justice Center.

The Governor’s proposals to expand pre-kindergarten and broaden health care coverage for 400,000 children without insurance drew praise from the Winning Beginning NY coalition. "We thank the Governor for proposing these key steps forward," said Nancy Kolben, a Winning Beginning NY Co-Convener and Executive Director, Child Care, Inc. "We're hopeful the Governor's obvious commitment to children will translate into future full support for Winning Beginning NY's 'Best in the Nation' plan for early care and education." The Pre-K increase brings the state's annual prekindergarten expenditure to $395 million in FY 2007-8, with a commitment from the Governor to raise the annual Pre-K budget to $645 million by FY 2010-11.

“Governor Eliot Spitzer’s first Executive Budget proposal has provided mental health advocates with a number of reasons to celebrate…and a number of initiatives to vigorously promote with the legislature and the public,” said Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). Among the budget’s highlights for NYAPRS are funding for 1,000 new supported housing and 1,000 new SRO opportunities; new funding for prison mental health services; and proposed “rightsizing” of the State’s mental health hospitals.

“This is very impressive,” said Michael Polenberg of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies. “The Governor has honored prior year funding commitments and he has made a sizeable, really remarkable investment in mental health housing.”

“It looks like a good budget for OMRDD programs and services,” said Forest Cotten, Director of Legislative Services for the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies. “It maintains or expands funding for many successful programs and initiatives including NYS-CARES and NYS OPTS.”

“It is a good overall budget for children and families in need, and it demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to changing the way the process works in Albany,” said Jim Purcell, Executive Director of COFCCA. “We’re very gratified to see the inclusion of several child welfare appropriations that were added in the past by the Legislature. We look forward to working with the Spitzer administration on all child welfare issues.”

“No AIDS programs were reduced or eliminated, a practice that was common under previous Governor George Pataki (with the exception of his last year in office),” the New York AIDS Coalition reported. “Beyond that, a few AIDS initiatives received new money.”

Hospital and nursing home providers were less enthusiastic about the budget proposal. "We recognize the Governor's budget as an earnest attempt to begin restructuring the health care system by seeking to expand coverage for children, increase primary care, and better coordinate care for the elderly and chronically ill-each of these elements is essential to achieving real reform. We are concerned, however, that other proposals within the budget will adversely impact our hospitals' and nursing homes' ability to provide care,” said Daniel Sisto, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State. "Of particular concern is the reduction of the Medicaid trend factor, which is an indexed cost-of-living adjustment essential for hospitals to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of pharmaceuticals, labor, energy, and a multitude of other costs that increase every year. Hospitals and nursing homes will be extremely hard-pressed to meet those increases if this proposal stands.”

Advocates were continuing to sift through the 1,000-plus pages of budget material on individual line item appropriations and looking for more. “We don’t have a lot of the detail yet,” said HSC’s Sesso. “That will come out in the next week or so.”

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