Office for People with Developmental Disabilities could see $90 million in funding restored, North Country lawmakers say
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 6:28 am

A bill that would restore $90 million in funding to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has passed the Senate and the Assembly, according to Sarah Compo, a spokeswoman for Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvleton).

Sen. Ritchie and three North Country Assembly members are praising the bill's passage.

State Assembly members Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River), Marc W. Butler (R,C,I-Newport) and Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) all voted in support of the measure to restore the funding cut by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the state budget.

According to a release from Russell's office an oversight discovered by the federal government earlier this year forced New York State to pay back $1.1 billion in “overpayments” for services provided to the developmentally disabled.

Negotiations with the federal government allowed the state to reduce that amount by more than half to $500 million, reducing the financial burden on OPWDD providers. However, this is what ultimately led to $90 million in OPWDD funding being cut from the budget, Russell said.

The final 2013-14 state budget created a workgroup to find savings in OPWDD.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in support of this bi-partisan legislation,” Russell said. “Solving our fiscal issues is never easy, but forcing our most vulnerable populations to suffer the consequences must be taken especially seriously.”

Butler said the lack of funding was unacceptable and he was pleased with legislation aimed at restoring the $90 million.

“It was a great tragedy to see funding for programs for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities cut in the State Budget. Today, however, through the efforts of the Assembly Republican Conference, the legislature restored $90 million to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. It’s critically important to remember that we must have compassion for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Today’s restoration is a victory for what is right,” Butler said.

Blankenbush said he fought hard for the passage of the bill, but it was worth it.

“I am pleased that we did the right thing by restoring $90 million worth of funding to programs for the developmentally disabled. It was wrong of Albany to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. Fortunately, we passed a plan today that is not only fiscally responsible, but morally responsible as well," he said. “Sometimes it is well worth being relentless when standing up for what is right. I am glad to see that our objections to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities cuts were heard and the funding was subsequently restored.”

Compo said it is up to the Assembly to forward the bill to the governor's office, where it can be signed into law.