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State passes on time budget

ALBANY The state budget was technically a day late, and for the health care industry, it was many dollars short. The state legislature passed New York States $121 billion budget on April 1. The budget cut Medicaid spending by $1 billion, provided $1.3 billion property tax relief aimed at the middle class, started stem-cell research with $600 million over six years, provided a record $1.76 billion increase in school aid, bringing the total to $19.64 billion, will provide health insurance to 400,000 children, and doubled the number of charter schools to 200. Schools praise increased aid AuSable Valley Central School Superintendent Paul Savage was pleased by the increase in state aid. For us, it was a general step in the right direction to providing us with the budget that meets the needs of our school district, said Savage. Initial estimates show AVCS gaining six percent in state aid, consistent with some of th better years for the state. Some of the funding, though, wouldnt be of immediate use, such as a $100,000 for universal pre-K. The school currently has no pre-K program, although the discussion about creating one was taking place. The state funding wouldnt cover the entire costs of the program. Almost as important as having the additional funding was the timely nature of the budget, Savage added. Schools are currently creating their budgets, and knowing what the state aid will be gives the school boards solid figures to work with. Willsboro Central School Superintendent Steve Broadwell was enthusiastic about the states support. In the budget, the school received $100,000 it hadnt anticipated. Were very pleased for the support for education in the state budget. It will hopefully allow some property tax relief for everyone, and schools to maintain their educational goals, said Broadwell. Hospitals fear results While the cuts to the health care industry werent as severe as originally proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, health care providers are still concerned about the results. Joe Riccio, spokesman for the Adirondack Medical Center, said hospital officials were still examining the budgets impact on the hospitals operations. The budget didnt include a sick tax, which Spitzer had wanted, but cuts to Medicaid were expected to cause some pain for the hospital. Spitzer has been masquerading these as reforms these cuts hurt health care providers, said Riccio. Assemblywoman criticizes process Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (Willsboro - R) voted against the budget, saying that the seven percent increase was too large. We could have found ways to cut, and there were no cuts made, said Sayward. Additionally, she felt the process went poorly. It was the worst process Ive ever seen, completely behind closed doors, said Sayward. She said a copy of the budget which is about 6,000 pages was given to her with less than two hours to examine it. She said wading through the pages was impossible in that short time frame. Sayward said that the budget would double the states deficit to $3.3 billion in just one year. How do you sustain that overtime? It just concerns me that we can't sustain these kinds of huge increases year after year, said Sayward. It wasnt all bad news, though. Sayward was pleased that funding for the administrative costs of the Empire Zone program was included, along with $60 million in emergency aid to farmers.

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