Senator Oppenheimer: Tough But Responsible Choices Made In Budget Cuts

Suzi Oppenheimer

August 27, 2008

Says reductions were necessary in economic climate,
but education and Medicaid funding remain

State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) today said that although she had deep reservations about making cuts to the current state budget, she voted in favor of the reductions to prevent even more drastic cuts further down the road.

“This was not a great moment for us as lawmakers,” said Senator Oppenheimer. “No one wants to make cuts to necessary programs. But the Bush recession has hit our state hard, and a shortfall in state tax revenues has made short-term cuts necessary. So, in these difficult times, many of my colleagues and I acted to make responsible choices.”

Legislation to trim $427 million from the State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2008-09 state budget was approved by both houses of the legislature after Gov. David Paterson called lawmakers back to Albany to deal with the state’s fiscal crisis. It is expected that the measure will result in cost-cutting worth just over $1 billion over the current and next State Fiscal Year.

“Tough times demand tough decisions,” said Senator Oppenheimer. “But Senate Democrats also fought to protect healthcare and education funding, and were able to win some concessions: no cuts to Medicaid benefits. No cuts to foundation aid to public schools. No cuts to TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) or community colleges. And no cuts to public benefits, foster or child care. So, while reductions were inevitable in the budget, my colleagues and I were able to stave off some of the unkindest cuts.”

Even so, said the Mamaroneck lawmaker, many New Yorkers will feel the effects of the cuts. Small not-for-profit organizations will be especially affected.

“Any cuts to small organizations with small budgets will hurt more than big cuts to big organizations,” Senator Oppenheimer said. “And that will certainly have an impact on how they are able to help those who count on them. Senate Democrats simply have different priorities than the Majority, and we plan to do this type of hard work differently in the future to protect these organizations.”

With a potential $5.4 billion deficit next year, Senator Oppenheimer said that her colleagues will work with Gov. Paterson to pass a responsible budget for SFY 2009-10.

“But that process has to start now,” she said. “We need to begin the hard work of crafting a budget for next year that cuts the pork while delivering needed services New Yorkers have come to rely upon.

“At the same time, we should set about creating a fair, equitable tax policy for every New Yorker that reduces the tax burden on our hard-pressed, working middle-class families,” Senator Oppenheimer concluded. “This is a chance to become more fiscally disciplined with our money. If we take advantage of it, we can be better prepared for future deficits.”