By Anna Gustafson
Cuts that New York lawmakers were expected to make to the state budget this week in an effort to fill a $3.2 billion deficit may delay funds promised to several Queens hospitals, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said.
As part of the $2.8 billion budget reduction plan legislators were poised to vote on, the state will likely hold up for six months millions of dollars in HEAL NY funds to Flushing Hospital, Jamaica Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital in Astoria and Forest Hills Hospital, according to Stavisky.
But New York Hospital Queens will not have its HEAL monies delayed, Stavisky said. HEAL NY is a state program that encourages preventative care options to reduce the flow of patients in hospital emergency rooms.
Stavisky and Lancman said while they are not thrilled to postpone the payments, it was better than losing the funds altogether.
“We are trying very hard to avoid devastating health care cuts,” Stavisky said.
Paterson had announced last month the HEAL funds for the hospitals, which included $1 million for Jamaica Hospital to expand primary care services in St. Albans, $4 million for Elmhurst Hospital to build a new women’s center, $4 million for Mt. Sinai Hospital to add 18 new treatment spaces to its emergency rooms and $4 million for Forest Hills Hospital to move its primary care facility into a larger space.
For weeks Paterson had been pressuring lawmakers to reduce the budget, although legislators had hoped to stave off the cuts until January, when some lawmakers believed additional revenues would come in. The state faced having only $36 million in its coffers after it paid its December bills as the lawmakers struggled to fill the gap, according to the Associated Press.
“All in all, I think we’re successful in mitigating the cuts the governor wanted to make that would really hurt people in Queens,” Lancman said.
The governor had presented lawmakers with a $3.2 billion budget reduction plan, which legislators had said before the vote that they would not approve because it entailed mid-year cuts to schools.
“I was very concerned about these cuts to education,” Lancman said. “It’s very difficult for schools to adjust their budget in the middle of the year. What do you do? Fire a teacher in the middle of the year? What happens to the kids in that class?”
Although Paterson was not pleased the Assembly and Senate did not agree with his $3.2 billion in cuts, he said he would approve the $2.8 billion deficit plan, which includes $1.6 billion in executive actions the governor announced this weekend.
“Unfortunately the Legislature’s last best offer does not take sufficient action to restore New York state’s long-term fiscal stability and does nowhere near enough to address next year’s budget deficit,” Paterson said in a statement. “If the Legislature won’t stand up for the people of New York because they’re worried about the next election, then I will do so on my own.”
Paterson ordered Sunday an 11 percent reduction in each state agency’s non-personnel services budget. All of these cuts, except for the $53 million cut to the City University of New York, can be achieved without legislative approval.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended Paterson’s attempts to reduce the deficit.
“At least our governor is trying to do something,” Bloomberg said. “Give the guy a break. If anybody’s got complaints, talk to your legislators.”
Jeremy Walsh contributed to this article.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.