Nonprofit Newswire | Budget Impasse in N.Y. Could be Trouble

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June 12, 2010; Source: Poughkeepsie Journal | Maybe by the time this Newswire runs, the New York State legislature will have passed a budget to keep government and the nonprofits funded by government running. As of this writing, if the legislature doesn’t pass Governor Paterson’s emergency budget, the state could shut down on Monday. Newswire readers may recall the havoc a similar impasse caused in Pennsylvania last year.

The state budget is already 10 weeks late, because the governor and the legislature haven’t been able to agree on how to resolve a $9.2 billion budget deficit (the governor’s bill will cut only a few hundred million from the budget, and even that is an amount that Democrats in the legislature say they are unlikely to accept; the lame-duck governor is also a Democrat). Nonprofits are taking the late budget on the chin, as they have to float the costs of delivering services in anticipation—or just vague hopes—that the budget will eventually pass and they’ll get their contracts approved and processed.

The mid-Hudson region of New York State (Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Rockland, and Westchester counties) suffered through 591 late contracts in 2009. Dutchess County alone had 68 late contracts in 2009, delayed from 5 to 905 days. The Poughkeepsie-based Abilities First group has been able to slide by the budget crisis because two-thirds of its budget comes from Medicaid, which the state is not allowed to delay.

But the Pleasant Valley-based Dutchess ARC, serving developmentally disabled children and adults, has been suffering with delayed contracts and payments, which ARC says could mean a loss of staff and reductions in client services. For New York State, this isn’t a new, recession-related event. Delayed state budgets are par for the course in Albany. The state’s budget process has given new meaning to the concept of “dysfunction.” It’s a wonder that the voters of New York State put up with this year after year after year, especially when the toll may be measured in shrunken government and nonprofit programs and services.—Rick Cohen