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