State Leg­is­la­ture pushes al­ter­na­tives to Cuomo’s bud­get plans

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Pre­cious

AL­BANY – Democrats who con­trol the State Leg­is­la­ture of­fered a sim­ple mes­sage to Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo on Tues­day: Spend more state money on the state’s 700 pub­lic school dis­tricts, Med­i­caid, lo­cal gov­ern­ments, trans­porta­tion and other ini­tia­tives. Con­sid­er­ably more.

The Leg­is­la­ture un­veiled its sep­a­rate, one-house bud­get bills, which will be ap­proved Wednes­day and serve as a tem­plate for leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties in fis­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions that are now heat­ing up be­tween law­mak­ers and Cuomo. The new fis­cal year starts April 1.

Some of the leg­isla­tive fis­cal changes, like ev­ery year, were ex­pected from law­mak­ers who, by the na­ture of their job, deal more di­rectly with con­stituents than the gov­er­nor.

The Se­nate, for in­stance, wants to give pub­lic schools an over­all ed­u­ca­tion aid in­crease of 6 per­cent, or more than $600 mil­lion be­yond the $1 bil­lion Cuomo pro­posed in Jan­uary.

“We are very, very com­mit­ted as a con­fer­ence to ed­u­ca­tion,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity

Fe­bru­ary in the con­text of his new bud­get, Higgins said: “He’s not re­li­able … I think what he’s do­ing is push­ing Democrats and Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress to­gether to­ward the goal of restor­ing some very im­por­tant pro­grams.”

In his bud­get mes­sage, though, Trump said it makes per­fect sense for him to push for bil­lions to build a wall at the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der while seek­ing cuts in most do­mes­tic spend­ing pro­grams.

“As pres­i­dent, my high­est duty is the de­fense of our na­tion – which is why fin­ish­ing the bor­der wall is an ur­gent na­tional pri­or­ity,” Trump said, adding: “We must pro­tect fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from Wash­ing­ton’s ha­bit­ual deficit spend­ing.”

To that end, Trump asked fed­eral agen­cies to cut their bud­gets by at least 5 per­cent.

But the cuts in pro­grams im­por­tant to Buf­falo are in many cases much deeper. For ex­am­ple:

• Fund­ing for the Great Lakes Restora­tion Ini­tia­tive – which is largely re­spon­si­ble for the Buf­falo River cleanup and other such ef­forts – would go from $300 mil­lion in fund­ing this year to only $30 mil­lion in the fis­cal year that starts Oct. 1.

• The bud­get for the Army Corps of En­gi­neers, which main­tains wa­ter­ways in metro Buf­falo and around the coun­try, would be cut by a third.

• Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grants, which pro­vided Buf­falo with $13.7 mil­lion for use in pro­jects across the city last year, would be elim­i­nated.

• The Low In­come Home En­ergy As­sis­tance Pro­gram, which serves nearly 70,000 Erie County fam­i­lies, would end.

• Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health bud­get would be trimmed by 12 per­cent, which would prob­a­bly trans­late into fund­ing cuts for Roswell Park Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Cen­ter.

• Medi­care, which pro­vides health care for thou­sands of West­ern New York se­niors, would be cut by $845 bil­lion over a decade, mostly by re­duc­ing pay­ments to hos­pi­tals and doc­tors.

Many of Trump’s sug­ges­tions, in­clud­ing the Great Lakes cuts and the elim­i­na­tion of heat­ing as­sis­tance, have been pro­posed be­fore, only to be re­jected by pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can Con­gresses.

“It seems like it’s Ground­hog Day ev­ery year,” said Dot­tie Gal­lagher, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Buf­falo Ni­a­gara Part­ner­ship.

Gal­lagher will join lead­ers of cham­bers of com­merce from across the Great Lakes re­gion on a White House visit Thurs­day to lobby against the cuts in Great Lakes fund­ing and to fight for other shared pri­or­i­ties, such as in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing, im­mi­gra­tion re­form and fair trade.

Mean­while, the Heal­ing Our Water­sGreat Lakes Coali­tion will fo­cus its ef­forts not only on pre­vent­ing cuts to the Great Lakes ini­tia­tive, but also stop­ping pro­posed re­duc­tions in fed­eral aid for lo­cal wa­ter sys­tems and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bud­get fails the Great Lakes and the com­mu­ni­ties which de­pend on them for their drink­ing wa­ter, pub­lic health, jobs and qual­ity of life,” Chad Lord, the coali­tion’s pol­icy di­rec­tor, said in a news re­lease.

House Democrats and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Demo­crat, are likely to try to pro­tect fund­ing for the Army Corps, the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant and LIHEAP.

“This is a re­minder that it’s not the pres­i­dent, but Congress that has a con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to make a bud­get,” said Higgins, who said he would fight the pro­posed cuts in fund­ing for the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, fear­ing their im­pact on Roswell Park.

Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Repub­li­can who re­mains in his seat as he fights charges of in­sider trad­ing, said he would con­tinue to fight for lo­cal pri­or­i­ties.

“While I do agree with Pres­i­dent Trump that we need to get the fed­eral govern­ment’s fis­cal house in or­der, his bud­get is ba­si­cally a mes­sage to Congress lay­ing out the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pri­or­i­ties for the coun­try,” Collins said in a state­ment Tues­day.

“Ul­ti­mately, Congress and the Pres­i­dent must agree on govern­ment spend­ing, and I will fight for pri­or­i­ties such as the Great Lakes Restora­tion Ini­tia­tive, LIHEAP (the heat­ing aid pro­gram), and other im­por­tant West­ern New York ini­tia­tives,” Collins said.

Per­haps no part of Trump’s bud­get caused greater shock among lo­cal law­mak­ers than his pro­posed $845 bil­lion in cuts in Medi­care, along with even larger cuts in Med­i­caid, the state-fed­eral health pro­gram for the poor and the lower mid­dle class.

Those cuts an­gered Schumer. “Can­di­date Trump promised no cuts to Medi­care and Med­i­caid,” Schumer said. “Pres­i­dent Trump wants to cut them by more than $2 tril­lion. The chal­lenges of of­fice some­times pre­vent pres­i­dents achiev­ing what they cam­paigned on, but this is the op­po­site of what Don­ald Trump said.”

Nev­er­the­less, those pro­pos­als seemed to cre­ate less con­cern among lo­cal law­mak­ers than some of Trump’s other sug­gested cuts.

Democrats said the Medi­care and Med­i­caid cuts are too big to ever pass.

“We’re go­ing to strengthen Medi­care, not cut it,” tweeted Sen. Kirsten E. Gil­li­brand, a New York Demo­crat.

Reed said he was not overly con­cerned be­cause there are sav­ings to be found in Medi­care – for ex­am­ple, by work­ing to re­duce pre­scrip­tion drug costs.

Wash­ing­ton Post

In his bud­get mes­sage, Pres­i­dent Trump said: “My high­est duty is the de­fense of our na­tion.

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