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Budget vetoes to impact funding for LI-based nonprofits

ALBANY - More than 600 adults in Suffolk County are probably going to wait longer to learn to read because Gov. David A. Paterson vetoed $29,000 for Literacy Suffolk Inc.

The three member-item grants were among thousands struck from the legislative budget bills adopted June 28. All the grants statewide totaled between $180 million and $190 million.

Literacy Suffolk had planned to use its money to hire a person to train literacy volunteers. The Bellport-based group has reduced its staff by more than half since October 2009 due to less state funding.

"This is very upsetting," said executive director Gini Booth, referring to the vetoed funds. "The need is so great - 14 percent of adults in Suffolk are at the lowest literacy level. This money would have made a difference."

Eight Paterson aides delivered the 6,681 vetoes to the Assembly and State Senate at 2 p.m. Wednesday, though it was unclear whether overrides would be attempted. Both houses adjourned July 1 without making a decision on overrides.

The vetoes also include $419 million in restorations of Paterson's more than $1 billion in cuts to school aid and $106 million for community colleges and the Tuition Assistance Program. But much of the attention was on member items, also called pork-barrel grants.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) noted Paterson nixed money set aside several years ago for charities. "We are saddened that the governor . . . chose to renege on commitments of funding support from prior years to nonprofits and community-based organizations that run free clinics, care for children and the elderly, offer counseling for crime victims and provide other vital services," he said.

Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook replied the vetoes were necessary because New York must close a $9.2-billion budget deficit this year. The $134.4-billion budget is now 99 days late, in part because the Senate left the Capitol without passing the final budget bill.

Asked if Paterson was willing to restore the member-item grants, Hook said, "We aren't negotiating these points." The vetoes are the most made by any New York chief executive in modern history.

On Long Island, they likely will impact many public schools, libraries and health care groups. Among those affected: the Long Island Maritime Museum, $68,850; Lindenhurst High School's robotics club, $11,848; Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, $6,500, and Cradle of Aviation Museum, $2,500.

The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth and a subsidiary, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, is taking a big hit: $103,470.

"We're going to have to cut back," said David Kilmnick, chief executive officer of the Bay Shore-based Long Island GLBT Services Network. "We've already eliminated three staff positions and now are looking at cutting hours and charging for some of our services."

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