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Coalition opposes Cuomo spending cuts

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A coalition of groups that traditionally oppose spending cuts spoke out against Governor Cuomo's budget, which seeks to slash $10 billion dollars from schools, health care and state services. Cuomo, who has begun touring the state to promote his spending plan, says he's undeterred.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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The coalition, which includes advocates for the poor, public worker and teacher unions, and those who help the elderly, use words like “horrendous” and “devastating” to describe the effects of Cuomo’s proposed cuts.

Ken Brynion, President of the Public Employees Federation, a state worker union, says if the governor only focuses on reductions, it will severely harm state services. The governor is proposing a 10% cut to state agencies, and Brynion says agencies have already been whittled down through cuts over the past couple of years.

“They’re going to start endangering all sorts of services,” said Brynion, including road maintenance, hospital services, teaching children, and taking care of the mentally ill.

Cuomo has proposed laying off nearly 10,000 state workers if he does not win union concessions.

Ron Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, says there are ways to alleviate the reductions. He says an extension of the temporary income tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest could wipe out half of the $10 billion dollar deficit.

“We should not be giving a $5 billion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest 2 to 3% of New Yorkers right now,” said Deutsch. “We don’t think that’s wise.”

The groups say they would also like to close corporate tax loopholes, end some ineffective economic development programs, and ask Wall Street to help out. They say the financial industry has rebounded after billions of dollars in taxpayer bail outs.  They say if the rich and business don’t contribute more, the neediest in society will be the ones who suffer.

But Governor Cuomo has been adamant about letting the temporary tax on the rich expire at the end of the year, and he’s said repeatedly, in his budget speech and a web address, that he will not raise taxes, and won’t be swayed by the cries of lobbyists or what he calls special interests.

“I will not be intimidated,” Cuomo said.

And Cuomo says the net effect of his cuts will be a  2 to 3% reduction of total funding to most schools, health care providers and local government. He says that’s not any worse than what members of the public have had to live with during the economic downturn. 

The Reverend Jim Reisman operates a free breakfast program for the homeless in downtown Albany, where he says 150 people endured the snowstorm to come in for a hot meal.

“The governor has said that this is going to be a time of sacrifice and struggle,” Resimasn said. “But not for the rich.”

The groups say they are counting on the legislature to stand up to Cuomo’s budget. Some Assembly Democrats favor extending the tax on the rich, but Senate Republicans say they are against it. Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, points out that Senate GOP Leaders in the past also said they were against taxing the wealthy, but ultimately agreed to the taxes when faced with steep school aid and other cuts.

Cuomo was in Westchester Thursday, to promote his budget plan, and he planned to be in Buffalo on Friday.  Deutsch says the coalition, just like the governor, will also tour the state to gain support for alternatives to the cuts.

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