Surrounded by Jewish communal officials last week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver blasted Gov. George Pataki for what he considers politically motivated vetoes of budget items that impact Jewish communal organizations.
“Pataki has been influenced by the radical right wing of the Republican party,” said the speaker at a forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Manhattan headquarters of UJA-Federation.Silver alleged that the cuts, which total $1.5 billion in spending and borrowing, were made in the interest of re-establishing the governor as a fiscal conservative following criticism that he raised state spending by more than 7 percent from last year.
Jewish officials who spoke at the event, while avoiding any direct criticism of the governor, said the cuts would have a severe impact on the state’s social service groups.
“Many of the vetoes eliminated funding which would have been used by our agencies to help the most needy,” said UJA-Federation President Louise Greilsheimer.
If the vetoes stand, they will have varied effects. Two programs for the elderly sponsored by Selfhelp Community Services would be shut down for lack of funding, while Pataki’s rejection of a 2.5 percent raise for workers in numerous state-contracted private agencies would make it difficult to retain or recruit professional staff.
“Agencies have not been able to keep quality workers without a Cost of Living Adjustment,” said Mindy Liss, director of community affairs for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
Among the other vetoed items was a $1.5 million social model daycare program that passed the Legislature this year after five years of lobbying; funds to bring foster care facilities into compliance with fire regulations; and two advocacy centers for child victims of sexual abuse.
A spokesman for Pataki, Michael McKeon, said the vetoes were intended to avoid future fiscal instability.
“The Legislature went on an election year spending binge, loading up the budget with pork that would have put the state’s fiscal soundness at risk,” said McKeon. Noting increases in spending in such areas as mental hygiene, McKeon said: “We feel we’ve provided adequate resources.”
But Silver said the cuts were made despite booming tax revenues that surpassed all expectations. “If the governor had not vetoed any item there would still be a budget surplus of $1.5 billion in the next fiscal year,” he said at the forum.
While an override of the vetoes is considered impossible, officials hope Pataki will change his mind before the budget is finalized. He has offered to negotiate over reinstating $200 million, but Silver said that would force him to choose which of the neediest to help.
“On Yom Kippur we ask who is to live and who is to die,” said Silver. “That is the kind of question we’re facing here.”
# It may take a village to raise a child, but it only took a few words from First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton last week to raise a furor over the propriety of a Palestinian state.
Locally, all three local Democrats running for Senate this year rejected Clinton’s statements, made in an address to Arab children.
“I disagree that supporting the existence of a Palestinian state with full sovereignty and its own armed forces” is in the interests of peace, said Public Advocate Mark Green.
Said Rep. Charles Schumer: “When voices in the White House say there ought to be a Palestinian state before there are guarantees of security, they do not set the peace process forward.”
Stressing that negotiations are at a “critical juncture,” Geraldine Ferraro said Clinton’s statement “sends the wrong message. … Only Israel can decide its own security needs.”
Placed in a bind is Councilman Noach Dear, running for Schumer’s seat, who has been one of the Clinton administration’s staunchest defenders in the Jewish community. During the 1996 presidential race, Dear insisted President Bill Clinton would not pressure Israel once he became a second-term lame duck.
“It pains me to witness the recent deterioration of the administrations’s policy toward Israel,” said Dear in a statement, which called on the president to “personally and publicly” oppose a Palestinian state.
Dear’s Borough Park rival, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, took time out of preparing for his corruption trial next week to draft a statement denouncing Vice President Al Gore’s “inexplicable silence” during Clinton’s “unconscionable pressure on Israel.”
Dear has close ties to Democrat Gore, while Hikind is still tight with Pataki, who hopes to be on the Republican ticket in 2001.
# Hikind played a prominent role in Pataki’s 1994 election, rounding up Orthodox votes. But you’d never know it from Pataki’s recent political memoir, in which Hikind’s name does not appear.
#Green’s candidacy for Senate was endorsed this week by a group he labeled “Machers for Mark,” a cross-section of Jewish leaders representing the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform communities. With Green at City Hall were Lubavitch Rabbi Shea Hecht, Conservative leader Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, as well as former Mayor Abe Beame.
# City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, a candidate for governor, is in hot water with Arab groups over his recent trip to Israel, during which he strongly sided with the cause of Jewish settlers in Hebron and elsewhere. He met last week with members of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee to smooth things over.
# Bronx State Senator Guy Velella will conduct a hearing this Monday to investigate non-payment of insurance claims to beneficiaries of Holocaust victims, 9 a.m., at One Federal Plaza in Manhattan.