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Study: NY Budget Worsens Racial and Ethnic Disparities

March 4, 2009

Albany, NY - Citizen Action of New York says that when the economy catches a cold, communities of color catch pneumonia, and now that the economy has pneumonia, those communities have double pneumonia. The group says the state budget is still not balanced for New Yorkers of color, and has issued a new study calling for changes while the it is still under consideration in the Senate and Assembly.

The report looks at several areas of the proposed budget, including health care, education and criminal justice, and says that while some proposals would reduce racial and ethnic disparities statewide, the budget overall would have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color.

Karen Scharff of Citizen Action of New York says the time is now for some changes.

"Both houses are expected to pass their one-house budget bills next week and so, as they're making those deliberations this week, we want them to really look closely at each decision that they're making and what that impact will be on racial disparities in the state."

An example of such disparities, says Charisa Smith of the Correctional Association of New York, is in the area of juvenile justice.

"The closures of juvenile correctional centers are a good outcome in the budget, but the lack of community re-investment of some of the money saved from those facility closures is definitely a shortcoming of the budget."

Smith, who is director of the group's Juvenile Justice Project, says such re-investment is a necessity.

"$16.4 million dollars is supposed to be saved from closing juvenile correctional centers. None of that is slated to be re-invested in communities. That's really a travesty and, in a fiscal crisis, it makes most sense to invest in programs that work, like community-based programs."

Governor David Paterson says it's unfair to look at just this budget and not at his administration's three-year plan to reduce a $48 billion deficit. He says that in the overall plan sacrifice will be shared equally.

"We feel that, by the time we have addressed all of these issues, they will be addressed equally, and be as shared in sacrifice as we can approach."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY