From the Desk of Legislator Wayne Wink
Children Should Not Be Used in a Political Tug-of-War
On March 29th, the Administration of County Executive Edward Mangano sent letters to County Youth Board agencies notifying them that, effective April 1st, they would receive cuts to their budgets. No, this was not an April Fools' prank. County Executive Mangano was giving the agencies which provide programs for our children just two days’ notice that their funding would be curtailed or in some cases eliminated. Youth agencies rightfully panicked last week over these proposed cuts. Then suddenly, the County Executive withdrew the cuts temporarily, stating that if the state legislature approves his additional Red Light Camera program by mid-April he will restore most of the cuts.
What troubles me is that not only were the agencies afforded only 48 hours notice, but the proposed cuts were distributed unfairly, seemingly without regard to the quality of the programs or the existence of other similar programs in the area. Some have even alleged that the cuts were tied to partisan politics; the deepest cuts were felt in districts represented by Democrats while districts with Republican lawmakers were left relatively unscathed.
Equally troubling is the legality of these cuts. The Democratic Caucus believes that these cuts may violate the law which implemented the Red Light Camera program. In 2009 the county legislature, unanimously and in a bipartisan fashion, required that the fine monies resulting from violations would be dedicated to fund social service agencies, including the Youth Board. For 2011, those fine revenues are expected to far exceed the funding levels of these Youth Board agencies.
In closing, drastic cuts such as these should only take place after all other options have been exhausted and after all the red light camera revenues have been appropriated. For example, the County Executive has an exorbitant mail budget. Additionally, he has awarded millions of dollars in contracts to politically connected law firms for outside counsel. I believe these budgets should be examined for potential cuts before we deprive our children of these necessary services. Politically motivated budget cuts cannot be tolerated and this kind of gamesmanship is unconscionable. We simply cannot allow our children to be put in the middle of a political tug-of-war.