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State budget cuts funding for screenings

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - Updated: 4:29 PM

By MICHAEL GORMLEY

The Associated Press

ALBANY -- New York is cutting funding for cancer screenings for the uninsured along with programs to curb teen smoking in a state budget that expands spending to help the Buffalo Bills and Hollywood.

Details of the budget plan struck behind closed doors by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are starting to surface as lawmakers hammer out details before the April 1 deadline.

And with those details come critics.

"The governor wanted to cut breast cancer screenings and programs to keep kids from smoking and he got them," said Blair Horner of the American Cancer Society.

Cuomo had proposed 10 percent cuts for the programs in the plan presented to the Legislature in January, but the final budget will likely result in 5 percent cuts -- saving $3.5 million in a $135 billion budget.

The budget is also expected to cut $90 million for programs to help the developmentally disabled -- less than the $120 million cut Cuomo proposed -- but chips in $54 million to help renovate Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. It also has a provision that appears tailored to provide a 30-percent tax break to draw the "Tonight" show back to New York.

"The role of state government is to have spending priorities and protect our most vulnerable citizens in the state budget," said Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco representing Schenectady and Saratoga counties. "Our priority should be looking out for families and people with developmental disabilities in communities .... not giving taxpayer-funded handouts to support the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills."

In an interview on public radio's The Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo said he didn't like the cuts for the disabled, either.

"But I am more the keeper of the economic reality here ... we have a lot of wants. Unfortunately, we cannot meet all our wants. I believe this budget meets our needs," he said.

Cuomo said the cut is forced by the federal government seeking to recover more than $1 billion that New York had overbilled for decades. Cuomo also said he will direct the cuts to come from administration, rather than in programs.

The Senate is scheduled to pass its final budget bills sometime early Wednesday. The Assembly will return to Albany on Thursday to give final legislative approval.

The Cuomo administration also defended some of its other choices Monday.

In return for the $54 million for stadium renovations -- Erie County will pay $41 million and the team will chip in $35 million -- the state will get a luxury box Cuomo's administration said can be used to promote upstate to employers and the team will stay put for seven years. State officials will be able to use the box only by paying the full cost of a ticket, officials said.

The Cuomo administration also argues any benefit sought by "Tonight" wouldn't cost the state more. It would come from the $420 million film tax credit program to encourage production in New York, which results in hiring and tax revenues. This year the fund was expanded to include TV shows and the state is extending its tax break to the new "Spider-Man" to film in New York City, on Long Island and in Rochester.

The budget includes extending two taxes that were to expire to help pay for $350 checks to most families with children beginning just weeks before Election Day in 2014.

"It's gross negligence on Governor Cuomo's part, to cut the funding for the developmentally disabled as the same time giving tax rebate checks for people making $300,000," said advocate Michael Carey, who has fought for greater safeguards in the system against abuse and neglect since his son died in it.

     

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