The New York State Legislature and the Governor reached an agreement late Wednesday night on the Fiscal Year 11-12 budget, where a $10 billion shortfall was closed by spending cuts in education and health and human services. Most of these cuts will have a profoundly negative effect on New York's most vulnerable citizens.
Despite attempts by certain members of the Legislature to cover part of the shortfall by extending the “Millionaires Tax” for individuals with the highest incomes, I am disappointed that the Governor and Legislature decided that increasing the overwhelming divide between the wealthiest families and those living in poverty was the best way to balance the budget.
These cuts will be compounded when the City passes its budget in the coming months. Mayor Bloomberg, who has been an outspoken critic of the State budget agreement, said, "Make no mistake: the final budget still cuts New York City more than ever before. The restorations are merely a fraction of the $600 million necessary to avoid additional layoffs and cuts in the City's budget."
As budgets at the federal, state and local levels are negotiated, programs that support low-income and disconnected youth have been disproportionately affected. The achievement gap between children in poverty and their peers is already far too wide – and the programs being cut are ones that have proven effective in narrowing the gap with regard to academics and lifelong outcomes, while also saving taxpayer dollars in the long term.
The negotiations did result in some limited restorations of critical programs, including the rejection of $91 million of proposed cuts to human service programs. The restoration will fund summer youth employment and home visiting programs, among others. In addition, the budget does not make cuts to core child welfare services.
The final budget also rejected the Governor’s proposal to create a Primary Prevention Incentive Program (PPIP) that would have collapsed and significantly cut funding for nine programs that help New York's most vulnerable children and families, such as after-school programs, which are distributed to counties or community-based agencies. However, only $8.7 million was restored of the nearly $50 million.
Even as we applaud the rejection of PPIP, the cuts of 50% to some of these programs will have a devastating impact on the lives of children and families. The Children's Aid Society's ability to provide high-quality expanded learning opportunities through after-school and summer programs will be profoundly impacted. Cutting these program dollars unfairly diminishes the opportunities for children to break the generational cycle of poverty.
President and CEO
The Children's Aid Society
Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS