February 24, 2011

New York Nonprofits Rally Taxpayers to Protest Proposed Cuts

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed deep cuts to the state's budget, including money for health care, education, and social-service programs. Now a nonprofit network is trying to get the public to fight back.

Human Services Council, a group of 200 nonprofits primarily in New York City, has started a campaign called “Who Cares? I Do’’ to protest the governor’s plan, introduced this month. The council hopes to create a ruckus among taxpayers who stand to lose programs run by agencies that depend on state aid to help seniors, the unemployed, the abused, and the indigent.

“Temporary aid to needy families—employment and training, after-school, alternatives to detention programs, homeless services, and domestic violence–all have been eliminated,’’ said Allison Sesso, deputy executive director of the Human Services Council.

The group has created a Web site that directs residents to write to their elected representatives and sign an electronic petition that asks lawmakers to “allocate adequate state and local resources to all New Yorkers in need of essential services.’’ About 600 people had signed as of Wednesday.

The budget ax would fall hard on programs in New York City, since Mr. Cuomo has proposed slashing $312 million in revenue sharing that is matched by the city, Ms. Sesso said. The city, which has not yet passed its budget, would need to raise revenue or cut costs to cover what would be lost.

Other state cuts that would affect city services, according to the council, include nearly $16-million in reimbursements for adult homeless shelters and $27-million for centers where seniors can eat, socialize, and learn about other services. Ms. Sesso estimates that at least 10,000 senior citizens could be affected.

These cuts are just the start, Ms. Sesso said. They don’t include money that may be stripped from the city budget or lost federal grants.

The legislature will debate the governor’s proposal before passing a budget this spring.

The governor said he had little choice but to curtail state spending. "The budget is designed to get our state on the right path by eliminating a $10-billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing,'' Mr. Cuomo said in a statement earlier this month. "New York State has been spending far too much for far too long, and we simply can no longer afford it. We must realign our state spending with reality.''

Tell us what's going on in your state. Contact Suzanne Perry to share your story.