Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bruno Threatens to Undo Some of Spitzer’s Proposed Cuts

This is from the New York Times, today.


ALBANY, March 7 — The State Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, delivered one of his sharpest and most specific attacks yet on Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s budget plan on Wednesday, pinpointing at least $300 million in proposed health care cuts that the Senate would probably try to restore.
“There’s enough money in this state to do it all,” Mr. Bruno said, referring to health care, education, tax relief and other programs that the Republican-controlled Senate wants to increase spending on. But Thomas P. DiNapoli, a Democrat who was recently appointed state comptroller by the Legislature despite Mr. Spitzer’s opposition, suggested that Mr. Bruno’s projections were too optimistic.
“Spending is still increasing at an unsustainable rate, almost two times faster than revenues,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement accompanying an analysis of Mr. Spitzer’s spending plan.
Mr. DiNapoli said that the governor’s plan would lead to a budget gap of $13 billion over three years. And Mr. Spitzer’s $120.6 billion budget will grow as the Legislature weighs in with more spending. The Senate and Assembly are likely to introduce their own budget plans by Friday.
Legislative leaders reiterated on Wednesday that they would restore an appreciable amount of the $1.3 billion the governor is cutting from hospitals and other health care providers. And the Senate, controlled by upstate and suburban Republicans, will seek increases in education aid even above those planned by the governor, asserting that Mr. Spitzer’s plan favors New York City. But the Legislature may have limited ability to impose its changes, since the governor appears to have enough votes to sustain his vetoes.
Mr. Bruno outlined two specific items worth $300 million in all that the Senate would probably alter in the governor’s budget. In a speech on Wednesday morning to the Healthcare Association of New York State, a hospital group, Mr. Bruno questioned why the governor planned to keep in place a tax on hospitals, worth about $137 million a year, that is scheduled to expire and criticized the governor’s plan to eliminate an annual inflation adjustment in Medicaid payments to health care providers.
“Anybody here know anything that’s going down?” he asked, adding, “I know some things that are going down: some parts of this budget.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was more muted in his remarks to the group. Assembly Democrats want to reverse some of the governor’s cuts but are reluctant to worsen an already strained relationship with Mr. Spitzer.
“There are a lot of principles the governor has expounded that we can buy into,” Mr. Silver said after the speech. “There are some places that we may want to soften some of the cuts.”
Mr. Silver also said that he mostly supported the governor’s plan to close more than $400 million in corporate tax loopholes, a proposal that has drawn criticism from the Bloomberg administration. The mayor’s budget director said on Tuesday that the move would encourage large financial companies to leave the city.
“I find that hard to believe,” Mr. Silver said, adding of the tax moves, “We can support most of them on a statewide basis.”
While several hundred health care workers rallied in Albany on Wednesday, the governor promoted his health plan at the Children’s Aid Society’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. He toured the center, including its health clinic, asserting that it could deliver primary and preventive care to children at a lower cost than most hospitals.
“We can afford to deliver health care in this setting, because you catch diseases, you prevent diseases from becoming chronic diseases, and you save loads of money,” he said.
With Mr. Spitzer was Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, who praised his plan to make health coverage available to the state’s 400,000 uninsured children.
“It’s the cost-effective thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for every child, and it’s the smart thing to do,” she said. But far more politically influential groups are opposing his health care proposals, namely the Greater New York Hospital Association and 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East, the powerful union. The groups have launched a media campaign criticizing the governor’s plan. And their top officials will probably have time to lobby Mr. Bruno and Mr. Silver in Washington on Thursday when they are all to meet with the state’s Congressional delegation to oppose spending cuts proposed by the Bush administration.
“Nobody said creating a budget in the state of New York was going to be easy and fun, or all sugar and milk,” Mr. Spitzer said. “It’s going to be hard fought because there’s much at stake.”
Ray Rivera contributed reporting.


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