Thousands rally against proposed state cuts for disabled programs

A rally outside Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Long Island offices in Hauppauge decried the governor's proposed budget, which includes a 6 percent cut in funding for all agencies, programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (March 15, 2013)

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Social service agencies and parents and family members of the developmentally disabled rallied outside the state building in Hauppauge Friday to protest tens of millions of dollars in proposed state cuts for disability programs.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed cuts of $120 million to programs for the developmentally disabled statewide after federal officials reduced New York's Medicaid funding because of overbilling. State legislative leaders are considering a proposal to restore about $90 million of the cuts. Any state cuts would prompt corresponding reductions in federal matching funds.

"A cut of that magnitude will have a devastating impact on programs and services for them," said Seth Stein, executive director of the Alliance of Long Island Agencies, a group of 32 area agencies serving the developmentally disabled.

Cuomo defended the cuts, saying many of the social service agencies overspend on executive salaries and other items.

Cuomo told reporters Thursday, "We want the reduction to be borne by the administration overhead and executive salaries" rather than "direct care and direct supervision" programs. ". . . Many of the salaries . . . [and] corporate expenses are exorbitant and that's where the reduction should be borne," he said.

Stein said Cuomo already "has imposed a cap on executive compensation and administrative expenses for human service agencies," beginning in the new fiscal year. "So this cut is not about that."

Organizers said several thousand people attended the rally Friday. Margaret Raustiala, of St. James, said she was protesting for her son, Riko, 42, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 1 year old.

"He lives in a group home in Smithtown and even volunteers in several outside programs. But he could do none of this without the support of dedicated staff," she said.

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