State budget crisis leaves local lawmakers in limbo

NORWICH - Chenango County lawmakers are struggling to stay ahead of the additional health care cuts New York Governor David Paterson has threatened to include in his emergency spending bill Monday.

With the budget nearly 2 1/2 months late, a $9.2 billion deficit, and the familiar haggling and little compromising going on between legislators from both parties, nothing short of a government shut down appears likely to stop the cuts. Already, Paterson has packed more than $700 million in spending cuts into emergency bills, many of which will short hospitals and nursing homes.

“I’m terribly, terribly disappointed in what’s going on at the state,” said Chenango County Board Chairman Richard B. Decker. “I don’t even know if they know what they are doing. We can’t get an accurate answer on any specific cut. They are just passing everything off to local municipalities.”

Decker has asked Department of Social Services Commissioner Bette Osborne to look at the impacts on possible cuts to local children’s services and mental health programs, and what an administration takeover of Medicaid would look like at the local level.

If children’s services funding is held back, County Treasurer William B. Evans said the county is prepared with cash flow to cover the deficit in the short term. “Hopefully they’re committed to honoring their mandates in the long term,” he said.

Chenango County Community Mental Hygiene Services Director Ruth Roberts said New York has always relied on Medicaid “to pay for everything.” When addressing rumored cuts to community-based treatment programs, she said the department would have to prioritize the groups of individuals who are the most vulnerable.

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