With budget talks due to resume, majority leader says pie has shrunk in wake of terror attack

By JAY JOCHNOWITZ, State editor

First published: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Talks among state leaders over a multibillion-dollar

supplemental budget, which ground to a halt after the World Trade Center

attack, are about to resume, but New York may now have even less money to

spread around, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno warned Wednesday.

His statements underscored complaints from nonprofit groups

that the lack of a supplemental budget jeopardizes their ability to provide

services, if not their existence.

Although Bruno said he, Gov. George Pataki and Assembly

Speaker Sheldon Silver will resume negotiations in the next two to four

weeks, the trade center crisis will be a priority.

"Everyone out there has to lower their expectations on what

the government of New York state is going to be able to provide in financial

resources,'' Bruno said.

The Division of Budget in its latest financial report said

the disaster could mean up to at least $1 billion in lost revenue, leaving

leaders perhaps $2 billion to $4 billion to work with. The state plans to tap

its surplus for now to deal with the loss.

But with money increasingly tight because of the trade

center disaster and the slowing economy, groups that have been awaiting a

supplemental budget say the delay threatens to curtail or close an

undetermined number of social services programs. It would happen at a time,

advocates say, when New York needs those programs to help people cope with

the economy and to assist survivors and families of victims of the Sept. 11

trade center attack.

"In the midst of this, we're supposed to be sending out

layoff notices?'' said Anne Erickson, executive director of the Greater

Upstate Law Project. "There's no reason for this.''

The Legislature approved a $79.6 billion baseline budget in

August and another $51 billion in reappropriations -- money left over from

past budgets -- this month. But it left out money for such things as the

Environmental Protection Fund, economic development and welfare, expecting

that would force Pataki to negotiate. With a supplemental budget still

undone, many nonprofits have no new money for the coming year, and some say

they are rapidly running low.

"We're down to two payrolls here,'' said Joanne Schlang,

executive director of Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime, a program that

works with about 150 clients in residential and treatment programs as an

alternative to prison. The program, which depends on $350,000 in state funds

for about half its budget, is one of about 20 around that state that are in

similar straits, Schlang said.

Another big question mark is education. The Legislature

approved Pataki's request for a $382 million school aid increase and put in

another $245 million in building aid, but vowed to give more in a

supplemental budget.

The delay affects not only school districts but initiatives

like an $11.2 million program that helps parents and teachers work with

bilingual students to meet new Regents standards. In a news conference

Wednesday, advocates of the program said that what remains of last year's

funding runs out this week. That could force the closure soon of 13 Bilingual

Education Technical Assistance Centers in the state, including one that

serves 17 counties, about 100 school districts and more than 2,000 students

in and around the Capital Region.

Mark Lewis, a lobbyist with the state Association of

Bilingual Education, said advocates understand the state is focused on New

York City, but "we also need the governor and the Legislature to focus on the

state budget.'' Without the program, he said, the 30 percent dropout rate

among immigrant youngsters will rise, creating "an educational disaster for

200,000 students in New York state.''

State officials also have yet to allocate $1.5 billion in

federal funds for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, a block grant

program that replaced welfare.

The money would normally go to welfare, job training, day

care, housing and other programs, said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the

Statewide Emergency Network for Social and Economic Security (SENSES), a

coalition of nonprofits. Such programs could soon have to close, or cut

services and lay off workers.

Failure to spend the money could also have repercussions

next year when the TANF program comes up for federal reauthorization.

"Congress will look at New York and say, do they really need it?'' Deutsch


While some groups say they are surviving for now on small

reserves, others are talking of raising fees, said G. William Martinez of the

Council of Community Services of New York State. Among them are day care

centers that people just getting back into the work force rely on.

"A lot of those parents who are making minimum wage, barely

making ends meet, are having to decide whether it's worth it to have a job

without affordable day care,'' he said.


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