This week, I joined my Minority colleagues in both the state Senate and Assembly in calling for an end to secret budget negotiations. The governor apparently has decided to renege on his promise to lead a budget process that would be inclusive, transparent and receptive to all differing ideas. Currently, Governor Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Smith and Assembly Speaker Silver are the only leaders allowed in on budget negotiations. The fact that all three of these leaders are New York City majority members has me concerned that Upstate is going to be left behind.
I am especially concerned about how budget negotiations are going to affect upstate schools. Governor Paterson, in fact, is already talking about shifting state aid away from our schools and moving these funds to New York City schools. This will have a devastating effect on our schools and the level of education they are able to provide to our students. In the past few years, we have been able to deliver record school aid and I am concerned that would be compromised.
Another major issue that needs to be tackled is the governorís proposed cuts to healthcare funding. Currently, Governor Paterson is proposing to cut $700 million in funding to hospitals throughout New York State, which includes a $1.2 million cut in state funding to our own Southampton hospital. These cuts are going to drastically affect the quality of employees as well as patient care that our hospitals are able to provide. Our hospitals are going to be forced to layoff employees and the funds needed to purchase better supplies and equipment is going to be eliminated. Preventing these cuts is one of my top priorities during the budget process and I am going to fight hard as well as work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that these cuts are not adopted in the final budget.
It is impossible to produce a budget that is fair to every area of New York when the three men who are negotiating it are from New York City. To completely close out any other viewpoint and refuse to allow members of the minority conferences in both houses to have a say leaves Upstate New York and Long Island at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the distribution of state resources. I am calling on the governor, senate majority leader and assembly speaker to reinstitute budget conference committees and allow for every area of New York to be represented in the budget process.