April 2003


From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Richard N. Gottfried • Chair, Health Committee

What the experts are saying...

"Local health preparedness is crucial to our ability to identify bioterrorism and respond quickly and effectively should our state once again come under attack."

- New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello

"(The governor’s budget) will not only devastate the ability of counties to provide basic public health services but will severely compromise the capacity of local health departments to carry out their mission for bioterrorism response."

– Dr. Lloyd Novick, president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials and Onondaga County Health Commissioner

"The choices contained in Governor Pataki’s budget deal a double blow to our state’s vital health care system. Not only did he choose to jeopardize, through his tobacco securitization scheme, the stable, long-term funding stream that finances our essential public-health programs, he also chose to cut $2 billion in funding from hospitals, nursing homes, homecare agencies and other care providers."

– 1199 SEIU President Denis Rivera

"Hospitals need to spend significant amounts of money to be sure that they are ready for any type of disaster. However, the proposed budget cuts are so deep that they would bring hospital efforts to prepare for nuclear, biological, or chemical events to a halt."

- Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske

"The proposed executive budget ignores the valuable role of our local health departments as a key element in public safety and homeland security and defense in New York state."

– Dutchess County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Caldwell

"It’s really devastating that when public health is reaching its potentially greatest challenge, that this system may crumble."

– Madison County Public Health Director David Dorrance

"Without stable and sufficient funding, my question is: Who will keep the public healthy?"

- Livingston County Public Health Director Joan Ellison

Governor’s budget jeopardizes public health and safety

Protecting New York’s public health and safety has never been more critical than today. Whether it’s preparing for acts of terrorism or combating the outbreak of disease, New York’s public health and safety infrastructure is being tested like never before.

But despite the governor’s rhetoric about protecting New York’s citizens, his budget makes the wrong choice by slashing funding to cope with disasters, disease control and terrorist-related health emergencies. In fact, public health officials across the state warn that the governor’s cuts could have catastrophic consequences for public health and safety.

Governor cuts local public health funding by more than half

Local public health departments are the first line of defense against health threats like bioterrorism and mysterious diseases, but according to the New York State Association of County Health Officials the governor would:

  • Eliminate $73 million in state aid to local communities
    • Cut more than $30.8 million in funding for basic local public health departments services – including infectious disease control; infant mortality prevention services; breast cancer screenings; protecting our public water supplies; and conducting restaurant health inspections
    • Totally eliminate $42.1 million for "optional" services – including emergency medical and laboratory services, and preventative West Nile Virus programs

  • Eliminate $68 million in previously owed health funding to counties

The governor’s budget removes $4 to $5 of funding for every $1 provided by the federal government for bioterrorism preparedness.

Health departments are already struggling to cope with increased responsibilities, like we saw with anthrax. Now SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – is a global health threat. The new mystery, drug-resistant respiratory illness is just the latest demand placed on county health departments.

And the governor’s cuts don’t stop there

The governor wants to make a drastic $2 billion cut to Medicaid and other health care spending – a move that would force working families to pay more for health care, while forcing hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, and health centers to lay off more workers, cut critical services, and be unable to respond to disasters.

That’s not all. These cuts undermine hospitals’ efforts to retool their emergency departments to deal with mass casualties; construct decontamination facilities in case of chemical attacks; purchase protective equipment for “first responders;” and provide smallpox vaccinations.

Governor fails to secure adequate federal assistance for New York’s disaster preparedness efforts

To make matters worse, the governor appears to have no influence with President Bush who continues to shortchange New York in homeland security efforts. New York has a 450-mile international border and major ports. New York City has two international airports, the nation’s largest public transportation system and some of the nation’s most visible landmarks. New York City is also the financial capital of the world and the victim of terrorist attacks in 1993 and 2001.

But 48 other states are getting more than New York. Our share of federal security aid worked out to $1.33 per person, compared to $9.78 for Wyoming; $8.15 for Vermont; $7.97 for Alaska; $6.62 for Delaware; and $5.24 for Rhode Island. New York received less per person than every other state except California.

Assembly working to protect public health and safety

Tough budget choices have to be made this year, but jeopardizing New York’s public health is not an option. The governor’s attempt to slash aid to local health departments would undermine all of the progress we’ve made. In his State of the State address earlier this year, the governor promised to increase funding for public safety. But his budget cuts are an assault on New York’s public health.

The Assembly Majority will fight the governor’s proposed cuts that compromise our health and safety, and will continue to speak out so that New York gets its fair share from the federal government.

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