Opinion

"This was a plan that was put together in secret and slashes critical health care programs that serve middle class families," said Assemblyman Tom Alfano as he voted against the Governor's deficit reduction plan. The plan cuts health care programs, job training partnerships, economic development programs and initiatives like the Nassau County District Attorney's Medicaid Fraud Unit.

The plan passed the Assembly and Senate, but was fiercely opposed by most local legislators. Joining Assemblyman Alfano in voting against the plan were Senator Dean Skelos, Senator Kemp Hannon, Senator Chuck Fuschillo, Senator Carl Marcellino and Assemblymembers Bob Barra, Tom McKevitt, Rob Walker, Dave McDonough and Joe Saladino. Joining the governor in voting for the cuts were Democrats in the State Senate and Assembly.

"When you do things behind closed doors and ask for no input, this is what you get - a train wreck of a bill. I am shocked over how the governor took the increases to SUNY college tuition payments and spent them. I am shocked at how the Power for Jobs program was swept away. And, most shocking, I can't believe the health care programs that have been cut and eliminated. This isn't good government - it's a disaster. Again, I ask the governor to cut the size of state government. Cut agencies. Cut programs that do not work. Make agencies work more efficiently and cut costs. Don't cut programs that work for the sake of making a bloated bureaucracy happy. Today, we kept bloated government intact and took the first step in victimizing seniors and the middle class. Those who voted yes aren't helping to reduce our deficit," Alfano said.

The Governor's plan also increases health care premiums for families. "Instead of keeping his promise of greater openness and transparency, Governor Paterson has proposed a deficit reduction plan that was developed in complete secrecy. His plan would raise health care taxes on businesses, families and individuals, divert hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to provide cheaper energy for businesses," said Senator Dean Skelos.

The increases in health care taxes are as a result of the governor's ill-advised $240 million increased assessment on insurance companies.

Alfano also pointed to Empire Zone local support programs which were cut 20 percent by the governor's plan. "Think about it. Right now, when Elmont, North Valley Stream, Franklin Square and West Hempstead are on the cusp of seeing real economic growth, job creation and revitalization in the Hempstead Turnpike corridor, the governor's answer is to cut funding? We need to create jobs, put people back to work and expand the tax base. This is a surefire way to stagnate and discourage economic development. He may have saved a few dollars today, but he hurt our local economy going forward."

Environmental Protection funding for Long Island's South Shore was completely eliminated along with water quality improvement programs and Long Island Pine Barrens funding.

What most disturbs Assemblyman Alfano is the health care cuts targeted toward seniors and middle class families. Alfano pointed to the following programs cut in the governor's plan: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Centers, AIDS research and healthcare, diabetes early diagnosis and control, children's asthma, infertility services, primary care centers, eating disorders and comprehensive care, safe motherhood programming, school-based health centers, minority male wellness and screenings, universal prenatal care, cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer mammographies, STD centers, lymphatic research, American Red Cross, NY Organ Donor Networks, brain trauma, arthritis, ovarian cancer hotlines, Chernobyl cancer screenings and Alzheimer's disease assistance.

"These are cuts in services that hit families very hard. These cuts impact people during their greatest time of need. These are cuts that devastate people and I wouldn't support them, period," said Alfano.

One program, Alfano notes, is a symbol of the dangers of the cuts passed by the governor in the form of New York State's Statewide Domestic Violence Program. Alfano noted that the program, which educates and assists victims, was also cut in half.

One cut that caught the eyes of many throughout the Assembly was the Center for Community Health North Shore LIJ "Returning Vets Program." "They cut the program almost in half. Here, you have men and women who wear the uniform of our nation. They serve with honor in dangerous places where many are wounded or lost. Now, they come home, sometimes with serious injuries and disabilities as a result of combat, and we pull the rug out from under them. What kind of government does that? It's disgraceful. It's shameful," Alfano said. "The next battle will be waged on New York State's budget. There is absolutely no question that we face a very disturbing outlook with the plan that was passed this past week. School aid, health care, STAR and economic development are now the battleground in the upcoming budget battle. Clearly, our communities stand to lose a lot if the governor doesn't listen. I stand ready to help. Will the governor listen to Long Island?"


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