An Unbalanced Budget: Does New York State's proposed budget show how Governor Andrew Cuomo really feels about the gay community?

"It’s Cuomo’s third conservative-tilting budget in a row, with cuts that hurt at-risk groups."
February 08, 2013

(Governor Cuomo's 2013-2014 budget proposal. Photo: Business Council of New York State)

“Are we going to have to fight him every time?” a prominent gay blogger pinged me in late January in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget proposal. It’s not generating much reaction; The New York Times even shrugged it off, calling it “low-buzz,” although “extra-lean.” It’s Cuomo’s third conservative-tilting budget in a row, with cuts that hurt at-risk groups including members of the gay community.
 
According to The Empire State Pride Agenda, the proposed budget could include cuts to programs in any of the 54 organizations that are members of the New York State LGBT Health and Human Services Network. In their testimony to the Assembly Ways and Means Finance Committee, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis said they were “gravely concerned” about the cuts.
 
The problem is that funding that was previously marked specifically for the LGBT network has now been lumped into a series of competitive pools, with that total budget being cut by 13%. These are steep cuts for the many small-and medium-sized organizations that are providing direct services to the most vulnerable in our community. 
 
I believe the governor when he says he’s a friend to the LGBT community. In 2011, he used his political capital to pass the historic marriage equality bill, which would have taken an extra year or two without his push. But his budgets simply haven’t been friendly to the disenfranchised. He’s refused to raise taxes to properly fund state programs for the poor, the mentally ill and those struggling to afford expensive HIV medications. 
 
But we can’t expect the governor to care about issues he doesn’t hear any noise about. On both marriage equality and gun control, people stood up and demanded action. State budgets lack the sex appeal of big civil-rights legislation, so the phones don’t ring. We can change that by engaging with our state senators and assembly members.
 
This budget will pass very quickly, so it’s incredibly important to call your representatives and tell them to make sure LGBT Health and Human Services are properly funded. There’s still time for the governor to back more progressive priorities, but he won’t do it if he doesn’t hear from us.  
 
Remember, the struggle for equality and social justice doesn't end with gay marriage.
 
Ryan Davis is a board member at the Ali Forney Center and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn.