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Pols seek to restore $90M in cuts for disabled

ALBANY -  Led by a Long Island assemblyman, a group of bipartisan legislators called on their colleagues to restore cuts in programs for the developmentally disabled before the state legislature adjourns for the summer.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Great Neck), whose 55-year-old son is disabled, said cuts enacted in March endanger day care and other services for the state's most vulnerable population. "I know firsthand the struggles they and their families face," he said. "I want them to know that their voices are being heard and this fight is not over."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers, as part of the 2013-14 budget, cut $90 million from the program that cares for developmentally disabled youths and adults in group homes. The reductions were forced because New York owes the federal government about $3 billion after overcharging it for decades. Cuomo said then he wanted the decrease to come from administrative costs, not direct care.

As the legislature moves to a June 20 adjournment, Weisenberg and Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) have introduced a bill that would restore the $90 million. To succeed, Weisenberg and Golden would have to persuade the governor and lawmakers to add money to the state budget after it's been settled -- something that doesn't happen often.

A Cuomo spokesman was cool to the idea.

"As we've previously said, the state's Medicaid program was altered as a result of a loss of federal reimbursement funds," said Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi. "The governor was able to mitigate 90 percent of that cut and we're working with providers to direct as many resources as possible toward treatment and services and away from bureaucracy and administrative pay. That work continues, but the facts remain unchanged."

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