State lawmakers and service providers applied a healthy dose of decency and common sense to protect developmentally disabled people in New York. It's a positive development in Albany these days, where it appears other big ideas may come up short.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators led by Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) have restored $90 million that earlier this year was cut out of the state budget with little warning to the not-for-profits that care for our most vulnerable: those with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Such cutbacks would most certainly have meant job losses, program reductions and, in some cases, closures for those agencies. In Suffolk more than $18 million was on the line; in Nassau, roughly $17 million.
The professionals, advocates and families who are in the trenches each day came up with the restoration plan, which is contingent on finding $90 million in efficiencies and waste. Now the state and the not-for-profits themselves must ensure those savings can be realized through trimming administrative salaries, removing overlapping programs and avoiding any unnecessary expensive services. If they come up short, the state will bridge the difference -- but for only this fiscal year.
The governor first proposed $500 million in cuts -- including $120 million across the board to providers -- to plug a massive budget crater created after the federal government found that New York had overbilled it by several billion dollars for Medicaid. That money must be repaid, and this rescue helps ensure that happens without cutting off providers on such short notice. The legislature restored $30 million and is now leaning on the not-for-profits for the rest, which the organizations appear ready to provide. The agencies weren't at fault in the bureaucratic fiasco with the feds, but they wisely saw that they can help pay the bill by running their operations more efficiently.