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Maureen Lane

New York State Budget: In the End

The Governor has "spoken" on one of the last notable budget items. Kind of reminds me of Pappy Yokem in the comic strip Lil Abner . "I has spoken," Pappy was fond of saying when things got complicated and too many people asked too many questions.

As characterized in the press, Governor Pataki did an "end run" around the legislature and has gone ahead with his Flexible Fund for Family Services (FFFS) approach to welfare federal funds distribution for the counties. FFFS is a block grant that offers ambigous guidelines on how to put the money to best use. His resolution certainly isn't resolving all the questions floating out there.

Yesterday, advocates for Low-Income New Yorkers and groups from Empire State Economic Security Campaign held a press conference urging Governor Pataki to agree to the funding allocations that the Senate and Assembly Human Services Conference Committee suggested in their bi-partisan proposal.

As Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness notes, "This budget is far from done. If we do not get some movement on TANF funds (Temporary Assitance to Needy Families) families and the organizations that serve them will start to feel the pain of this inaction." With the Governor's end run, the budget is pretty much done now.

The Legislature's proposal includes at least some good allocations that we fear may not be caputured in the governor's proposal. For example, the legislature wants $8.3 million of the federal funds to go for facilitated childcare enrollment projects. As Jim Cullen of the NYS Union Childcare Coalition points out "The childcare facilitated enrollment is helping thousands of average working parents pay for quality child care by allowing families earning up to 275% of poverty to apply at their worksites, community based organizations, and union halls during lunch time and on weekends. This will help working families across the state access the licensed, quality childcare they so desperately need."

Advocates and legislators have good reason to be concerned about the Governor's approach to this vital chunk of the NYS budget. However, there probably is not much we can do about it at this point with this executive. But the next governor is out there somewhere and we need to make sure the candidates have the valuable policy solutions that people with first hand experience, groups who serve and advocate for and with poor and low income people have learned through living policy that works and policy that does not work.

We know that we need greater access to education, health care and childcare for all New Yorkers. We want governors and legislators who value these priorities and are willing to make them the corner stone of their budgets. We want governors who are looking to fund the programs families need to get our of poverty and achieve economic security and they need to look for the right way to allocate that funding with the same dedication to detail as former governors have used to fund corporate tax breaks. We can learn from current and past mistakes. I know we can. The Governor may have spoken but it is the people's voice that counts in the end.

Maureen Lane: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:20 AM, May 04, 2006 in Economic Opportunity | Employment | Fiscal Responsibility | Government Accountability | New York | Welfare | public services
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