ALBANY - Assemblyman Andrew Goodell is urging residents to speak up for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities.
During this year's budget cycle, $90 million in funding was cut for programs and agencies that serve the developmentally disabled. Although the budget went into effect with the funding cuts firmly in place, Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County, and other lawmakers are still working to restore the funding to programs throughout the state such as The Resource Center and Aspire.
The proposed solution comes in the form of a budget amendment, which would reduce the available $420 million in film production tax credits for filming in New York state by $90 million. The funding would then be used to restore the cut.
"Our efforts to amend the budget were turned down in part because the assembly wanted to adopt a budget on time, and any amendments to the budget would have made that difficult," Goodell said. "So, we have introduced this bill as a separate, stand-alone bill to amend the budget and restore the funding. The budget can be amended at any time, and in fact we do amend the budget from time to time to improve it and to make changes. So, this is a proposed budget amendment."
According to Goodell, the proposed amendment would be at no cost to the taxpayers, but of significant value to agencies and organizations which serve the developmentally disabled community.
"What we did at our press conference was highlight how screwed up some of our priorities are in New York state," he said. "Now, here you have the governor, supporting a huge tax credit for Hollywood filmmakers to support their rich and famous lifestyle in Beverly Hills, while shortchanging all the agencies that work with the most vulnerable citizens in our state, those with developmental disabilities. In my opinion, Hollywood will still film in New York City when they want to have the New York City backgrounds in their films, regardless of whether or not we fund their filmmaking and increase their profits."
However, despite a bipartisan push, Goodell said the chances of the proposed amendment becoming legislation look grim.
"The press release was bipartisan," Goodell said. "The governor, for whatever reason, seems adamantly opposed to restoring the funds. I really don't understand fully why. I suspect the governor will be opposed to cutting the Hollywood tax credit, perhaps because he has received thousands and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those organizations."
In order for the proposed amendment to take effect, it needs to be signed by the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. However, Goodell believes it to be highly likely that Cuomo would veto the proposed amendment. He believes the level of support the proposed amendment receives, though, could influence the governor to make what he says is the correct decision.
"We are always hoping that enough people around New York state will speak up, and say 'our priorities ought to be helping those with developmental disabilities before we help maintain the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Hollywood,' even if the Hollywood elite are making thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the governor," Goodell said. "I'm urging everyone who believes that New York state should protect its most vulnerable residents before it helps out-of-state filmmakers to speak up."