When state lawmakers trudge back into Albany this week, all eyes will be on the minimum wage increase vetoed by the governor in July and now ripe for override. But while that struggle is likely to take center stage, it isn’t the only one to watch. Governor Pataki also vetoed more than $51 million in spending from the state’s federal welfare surplus, citing budget concerns. Dozens of programs, serving thousands of New Yorkers—ranging from homelessness assistance to adult literacy to youth employment—could soon disappear.
The same programs were vetoed by the governor last year but survived with a quick and easy override from the legislature. This year, budget deadlock in Albany stalled overrides across the board; the outlook for changing that this week is grim. “There’s more trouble in general with overrides,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick, chair of the assembly’s social services committee. “I’m not overly optimistic.”
Some groups have already closed down vital services, unable to cover staff expenses without a guarantee of funding. Palladia, a drug treatment provider, has terminated two of its programs designed to help graduates with job searches and family reunification.
Palladia is holding off on cutting a third program, hopeful that things will turn around. Other groups have the same idea. The Lantern Group, which operates 333 units of supportive housing citywide, got a state grant two years ago to designate 25 of their units for young adults leaving foster care. That funding will run out in February unless the legislature intervenes. In addition to being the youths’ landlord, Lantern provides services like counseling to keep them employed or in school, and casework assistance to help them access benefits they are eligible for, such as Section 8. If the veto stands, says Harriett Cohen, Director of Programs for Lantern, “it goes from being supportive housing to being an apartment building.”
State Senator Liz Krueger fears the worst. “My reading of this is that Senator Bruno wasn’t really sweating any of these cuts,” she said. “Why would he, at this late date in the budget cycle, choose to go to war with the governor?”