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What State Budget Cuts Mean to the Children of New York Open Letter to Governor Cuomo



March 7, 2011

To the Governor of the State of New York The New York State Assembly The New York State Senate

The Children’s Defense Fund – New York (CDF-NY) is extremely concerned about the impact the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal will have on the children of New York. The Executive Budget proposal for SFY 2011-2012 closes a $10 billion budget gap primarily through reductions in spending and shifts in state support to financially strapped counties and cities. The $132.9 billion budget proposes an across-the-board reduction of 10 percent on all agencies and reduces state aid to localities by more than $3 billion, primarily through reductions in School Aid and Medicaid. These cuts are proposed while the Governor considers allowing a tax surcharge to expire at the end of the calendar year for the top earners in the state. How can the state wave good-bye to $1 billion in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and $4 – $5 billion the following year at the same time it proposes cutting services that are critical to the healthy development of our most vulnerable children? New York has one of the most drastic income disparities in the country. Since 1980, the richest 1 percent of New Yorkers has grown from representing 10 percent of all wealth to 35 percent of all wealth in the state. Without this surcharge, New York will need to make even more crippling cuts in the next fiscal year. While encouraged by efforts to reform the juvenile justice system and some efforts to improve our education system, we are greatly concerned about the level of reductions to preventive services, youth programs and education, as well as the significant cost-shift to localities. JUVENILE JUSTICE We applaud the commitment to close underutilized youth prisons and invest in community-based alternative-to-placement programs. The legislature must support the Governor’s proposal and end the days of keeping empty facilities open while failing to provide youth with the services they need. Unfortunately, local detention funding will be capped to pay for new alternative programs. We caution you to ensure the final budget does not punish struggling counties, leading them to reduce critical preventive services in order to pay for local detention costs. A phased-in or staggered approach to the detention cap will allow counties the time to develop new programs that can safely keep youth out of detention. CHILD WELFARE AND YOUTH SERVICES CDF-NY strongly opposes the creation of the new Primary Preventive Investment Fund (PPIF). Cutting in half the already-inadequate funding previously budgeted for preventive services, making counties compete for that half-pot, and requiring them to raise a local match does not bode well for children. Cutting Advantage Afterschool means a loss of 5,000 afterschool slots for children at a time when the value and importance of afterschool and summer enrichment programs is unquestionable. CDF-NY urges you to restore the proposed $5 million cut and maintain funding for the Advantage Afterschool program at $22.2 million. Similarly, we cannot bear the loss of 25,000 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) slots. CDF-NY urges you to restore SYEP funding to $35 million. Most troubling of the cuts made through the PPIF and reduction in TANF funding is the loss of funds for the Home Visiting Program, one of the most effective interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect and improve school readiness. Investing in children up front saves money and saves lives. We strongly urge you to ensure that Home Visiting remains fully funded and out of any block-granted program. EARLY CHILDHOOD We are glad to see the continued commitment to fund the universal prekindergarten program, but the other reductions in early childhood programs will force parents to choose between employment and leaving their children in unsafe and unreliable environments, or places where children will not be adequately prepared for school. Every dollar invested in early childhood services saves taxpayers $4 to $7, and stimulates the local economy immediately. Restore the $55 million back to the Child Care Block Grant in the final budget. EDUCATION The Governor proposes many new cost-containing measures that would pass significant costs to local counties and cities. CDF-NY is very concerned about this across-the-board approach to reducing education funding. In particular, we are alarmed that the proposed budget fails to honor the terms of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s lawsuit settlement, which established that all New York State’s children should be provided with an equitable and adequate education. Cumulatively, the property tax reduction, proposed GEA formula and the idea of delaying the phase-in of foundation aid would place already-at-risk children throughout New York State in further risk of not receiving the support and services they need. We must rein in costs and applaud some of the initiatives proposed to create greater efficiency in our school systems. Yet, this budget will further strain the ability of struggling school districts to provide services and supports for their students in the near future. FAMILY ASSISTANCE The changes proposed to the public assistance program are not worth the $36 million in savings that they will generate. “Full family” sanctions will punish children along with parents and further destabilize struggling families. We support compliance but believe that implementing full family sanctions will hurt children. In addition, the delay of the grant increase will continue to penalize the most vulnerable families in our state and leave families with 70 percent of the purchasing power the grant had in 1990. States across the country are allowing the financial crisis to be borne on the backs of children. While everyone has a contribution to make to our becoming “whole,” not all cuts can be equal. Some cuts leave no room for recovery and eat away at tomorrow’s promise. Children have no vote so they depend on our voices. We urge you to show the way forward by protecting New York’s future. Sincerely, (The Rev. Dr.) Emma Jordan-Simpson Executive Director Children’s Defense Fund – New York