Editorial: Cuomo’s budget defunds those who need it most

A state budget that’s expected to top $150 billion will inevitably include many pricey mandates — funded or not — that will impact the East End’s economy.

Last year’s budget touched upon education reform, nitrogen mitigation, farmland preservation, closing a hit-and-run loophole and more.

This year, the issues to arise from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget include the minimum wage, paid family medical leave and infrastructure project studies.

These concerns and more will be hammered out in Albany over the next two weeks as lobbyists from all sides dig in their heels to ensure their interests are represented in the adopted budget.

What local elected officials must remember is that they represent hardworking folks here in the state’s southeastern corner who will be directly affected by whatever budget they approve April 1.

This week, some of those constituents rallied at the Perry Duryea State Office Building in Hauppauge to protest Gov. Cuomo’s budget on the grounds that it doesn’t provide additional state funding to help nonprofit employers cope with a mandatory minimum wage hike being pushed by the governor.

The protesters — including both employees of nonprofits providing specialized care to the intellectually and developmentally disabled and some of the clients they serve — must be kept in mind when our local reps negotiate and vote on the budget.

Gov. Cuomo’s plan to raise wages without giving these organizations sufficient funds to pay them is unacceptable.

It’s unfair to nonprofit administrators who try to keep costs down so they can offer the best care possible to those who need it most. It’s also unfair to the employees, some of whom could end up without jobs — and most of whom deserve better pay for the valuable services they provide. Worst of all, it’s unfair to the men and women who rely on these workers’ assistance.

We don’t necessarily favor an increase in the statewide minimum wage. As Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo points out, the repercussions for certain private sector businesses — farms or mom-and-pop shops, for example — could be devastating. But asking enterprises that rely on state money to provide care to the intellectually and developmentally disabled, while changing the state’s rules, should not be allowed.

A middle ground must be found.