Deficit Reduction Plan Raises Costs For Families, Targets WNY

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia)

Throughout this budget negotiation, I have met with countless constituents, groups and organizations, from Cornell Cooperative Extension to the Red Cross, Farm Bureau and Cornell University President David Skorton, who all, while understanding our fiscal crisis, have expressed deep concerns about the budget proposal put forth by Governor Paterson. Today, I continued to meet with groups to discuss the deficit reduction on last year’s Enacted Budget. Negotiated behind closed doors by the three New York City men in a room, details of a plan were not announced until late in the day, but already, many groups are outraged. In particular, members of New York State’s insurance groups who, taking note of the increased insurance costs, stated these costs will cost individual health insurance policy holders between $100 and $400 each.

Having worked in the insurance industry for many years, and as a member of the Assembly Insurance Committee, I know that the industry’s claim is, unfortunately, true. This deficit reduction plan only raises costs for families and, moreover, the millions in cuts are primarily targeting Western New York and upstate communities. Very little has been cut for New York City.

Agriculture is taking a particularly hard hit as this plan will cut thousands of dollars from the New York Agricultural Land Trust Revolving Loan Fund and New York State wine promotions, $811,000 from the New York Farm Viability Institute, $94,000 from the Center for Dairy Excellence and $47,000 from Cluster-Based Industry Agribusiness, among many other targeted relief programs. Dedicated funds, such as the Environmental Protection Fund and Child Support Fund are also being tapped to “reduce” the state’s deficit through this plan. Mental health care for veterans is being cut. Perhaps worst of all, nearly all of the entire SUNY tuition increases are being transferred to the General Fund, meaning that students, faculty and our state’s institutions of higher education will never see this new tuition hike.

At a time when every family, business, farm, school – all across our state and nation – are cutting back, these three New York City leaders have the audacity to cut programs across the board, sweep money from dedicated funds and raise taxes without making any cuts for themselves. In fact, this deficit reduction plan outlines that pork barrel spending will be kept.

I will be voting against this plan, which hurts our state now and in the long term with its increased dependency on bonded money. We need to turn our focus to strengthening our communities, investing in economic development (especially in Western New York) and reducing Albany’s addiction to spending – three things which this plan does nothing to accomplish.