Friday, February 02, 2007

Spitzer must play his cards right

Newsday ERROL A. COCKFIELD JR

Now comes the hard part....trying to convince everyone to row in the same direction and to think of the common good....the Resurrection of New York State..not an easy task..this article gives a good flavor of this........andy

ALBANY - It was time for the hard sell. At the end of his presentation of a $120.6-billion budget yesterday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer distributed small cards, etched in fine print, with charts and other details of his fiscal prescriptions.It was an unusual marketing ploy for a chief executive, but the cards - numbering 1,500 - illustrate the obstacle Spitzer faces in trying to build consensus around a budget that seeks to upend the Capitol's traditional spending priorities.Now he'll campaign across the state for approval of the plan, he said yesterday. "I'll be giving this card to people when I see them so they understand what is at stake," Spitzer told Newsday during a post-speech interview at his Capitol office
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The budget - which proposes a 6.3 percent increase in spending - would relieve property taxes by $6 billion over three years, cut $1.3 billion in health care services, and send an additional $7 billion over the next four years to public schools. It contemplates no broad-based tax increase, all while expanding health care coverage to children and adults.In the State Senate, where the Long Island delegation holds sway, Spitzer's plan to steer more public school funding to city-based school districts ran into opposition from Republicans who charged the governor was attempting to divert money from their suburban constituents.Long Island, where students in Nassau and Suffolk counties make up 18 percent of the state's public school students, would receive 8 percent of the additional aid under Spitzer's plan, compared with 13 percent in prior years, Senate officials said.Spitzer called the figure a significant hike in the context of the state's overall fiscal and educational condition, one in which underperforming urban schools have raised alarms."My kids may tell you that they're used to a lot more Christmas presents than they're getting," Spitzer said. "That doesn't mean it's either good policy, or affordable or right. An 8 percent bump ... is a major-league bump."After reviewing Long Island's share in Spitzer's proposal, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, a Republican from Port Jefferson, said, "This budget seems very heavily in favor of an urban agenda."LaValle and his colleagues also expressed concern that Spitzer's property tax cut - one that offers relief based on income - would not produce enough benefits for Long Islanders, who typically earn more than other New Yorkers.But, Spitzer said, "The fundamental principle is to confront the property tax crisis where it is most severe, which is the Island."His plan, he noted, includes a regional cost of living adjustment that calibrates taxpayer savings based on upstate or downstate residency.

In his inaugural budget presentation, Spitzer, a Democrat, sought to convince lawmakers and voters that a series of painful remedies could lead to the state's long-term health. That philosophy revealed itself most prominently in his approach to health care. Spitzer proposed freezing hospital and nursing home reimbursement rates at their current levels, but he also proposed moving the state's 2.6 million uninsured - especially the 400,000 children - toward health coverage.But Spitzer's statements about the health care landscape in a speech Friday, when he criticized lawmakers for budgeting practices that focused on the bottom lines of hospitals and nursing homes, not patient needs, angered some lawmakers and hospital advocates. Kevin Dahill, head of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, said, "We all agree that there is need for reform, but to cast the institutions as archenemies is really a disgrace." And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Spitzer's health cuts needed to face scrutiny before his house would sign on to them."We have to make sure that the cuts that are proposed do not deny access to health care," he said.

Comments:
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