ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB/AP) - Late Thursday night, the NYS Assembly began passing bills that make up the $135 billion 2013 budget.
The Senate approved the governor's budget the day before. But it has had some trouble passing through the Assembly, as minority Republicans introduce additional amendments that are certain to fail in the Democrat-led chamber. One of those amendments dealt with funding for the developmentally disabled in New York.
The budget cuts $90 million in funding, for programs and agencies that serve the developmentally disabled, despite an impassionate last-minute attempt to thwart those cuts.
Republicans joined with some Democrats Thursday to bring an amendment that would have restored the $90 million. But it was voted down by the Assembly's Democratic majority.
Speaking in Albany just after the vote, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R) said, "The fact that we are making a $90 million cut to the developmentally disabled in this state is unacceptable, and should never have been part of this budget agreement."
Officials argue it leaves the state's most vulnerable population, even more vulnerable. That money pays for their health care services; transportation to and from work, school, or day-hab; and education and job-training programs.
As Rhonda Frederick, Chief Operating Officer of People Inc. and President of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY, points out, "The things that we so much take for granted, people with developmental disabilities need those supports, need our help to do that."
"This will be devastating."
Frederick says now the disabled may be stuck on a waiting list or lose those services altogether.
"For instance, a lot of individuals attend a program during the day, a 'day-habilitation program," Frederick explains. "They will likely not be able to go five days a week. They will likely be able to go a lesser amount of time. We have a large number of people in Western New York aging out of school, graduating, in June. They're not going to have a program to go to. And unfortunately, there are not enough competitive jobs for people [with developmental disabilities]; there are not enough job coaching... there's not these programs. Where will they go? What will they do?"
Agencies that help the developmentally disabled employ 15,000 people in Western New York. Because of these cuts, as many as 900 of those people could lose their jobs.
They are not the only ones who will feel a negative economic impact. If the developmentally disabled do not have programs to attend, family members may have to give up their full-time jobs to stay home, and care for them.
"It trickles down," says Frederick.
The lawmakers who tried to pass the amendment and restore the funding assailed the budget for taking from the needy, while giving to others. Some attacked the $420 million in tax credits set aside in the budget to subsidize movie and TV productions, and the $54 million New York State has committed for the renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Whoever negotiated these cuts has never struggled with the pain of watching a child with disabilities," said Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay, from Monroe County.
"I want to know why the state of New York is making is making an attack on people with disabilities," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Westchester County Democrat whose son is autistic.
And Long Island Assembly Harvey Weisenberg, whose disabled son needs intensive care, cried, "Where are our values? We cannot let dollars be more important than people!"
Their cries were followed by a rare standing ovation, and hugs by colleagues for Weisenberg, who was in tears.
Republican Assemblyman John Ceretto, of Lewiston, vowed that the fight is not over. His daughter was born with speech and hearing problems, and was a beneficiary of some of the services the 2013 budget will cut.
"We must continue this fight to restore those funds," Ceretto said outside Assembly chambers in Albany. "I promise you, that I will fight for the developmentally disabled. I won't forget you. I'm going to do my best... to get the restoration of those funds."
"It seems absolutely unconscionable. It seems that the Governor could not budge, could not understand, did not see the value in restoring that money," Frederick says.
Kolb added, "And this is just one example where, budgets that are negotiated behind closed doors don't necessarily bring the best outcomes for the people that we're supposed to serve in New York State. We need to have a better budget process; we need to have a better budget outcome."
Police say they had the wrong man, and that Jerome Thagard, who spent four years in prison, didn't murder Steven Northrup in 2009. But the victim's family says otherwise.
A Good Samaritan died Wednesday while trying to assist the driver of a tractor trailer who got stuck in the snow.
A 26-year-old male employee of Ying's Wings and Things told police that Haibo Jiang, also known as Jimmy Ying, choked him until he passed out.
Investigators are making progress in the case of a Chihuahua thrown in a ditch while zipped up in a Coors Light thermal bag.
A registered nurse from Lockport has admitted concealing her knowledge of her boyfriend's drug dealing activities.
Intense Lake Snow Weakens Tonight; Strengthens & Shifts N Thur PM