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In a move that delays money to hundreds of non-profits across the borough, Gov. George Pataki has decided to withhold discretionary funding appropriated in the state budget.
Pataki has argued that the $200 million in funding, known as member items, is not listed correctly in the budget, which was passed over his vetoes in May.
The governor has told state agencies not to distribute money to non-profit groups until the budget is altered.
Charles Carrier, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said those non-profits have a serious need for member item funding.
These are very good programs, and if they do not get money, there can be a severe impact on the community they support, Carrier said.
Almost every year, the state sets aside millions of dollars in the budget for members of the state Senate and Assembly to dole out to non-profits in their districts.
During the budget process, Pataki, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Silver meet behind closed doors to decide how much money will be appropriated to each state legislator.
More powerful politicians receive more money to distribute than their less senior counterparts. Critics have called the process secretive and designed to keep incumbents in office.
The legislators then pick what organizations to fund, and their choices are inserted into the budget, which must be approved by the Senate and Assembly before the money can be distributed through state agencies.
Typically, the budget lists member items under individual agencies. For instance, if a Queens legislator were to appropriate $10,000 to renovate a playground in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the funding would be listed under the Parks Department, although the name of the legislator would not appear.
But in this years budget, the funding was not broken down and instead was included as a lump sum.
The Legislature has proposed a clean-up bill that would list the funding under various agencies. The Assembly, however, has yet to pass the bill.
In the absence of the clean-up legislation, which the Senate passed the Assembly failed to pass it our view is that there is no legitimate appropriation there, Pataki said at a recent news conference.
Carrier said the Assembly thought the member items appeared in a legal form in the budget.
We dont think there are any problems, obviously, he said.
Matthew Walter, a spokesman for Bruno, said the Legislature would address the issue next month.
We are going to be back in September, and we are still hopeful that it is something that we are able to get cleaned up and the money will be able to flow, he said.
In some years, the Legislature does not pass a budget until well into the summer, and the non-profits are accustomed to waiting for the money.
Still, the delay in funding has some Queens groups worried.
Fred Kress, president of the Rosedale Civic Association and coordinator of the Rosedale Civilian Patrol, said the patrol typically receives $2,500 of its $4,000 budget from discretionary funds appropriated by Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans).
The $2,500 pays for insurance, and insurance companies dont like to wait, he said.
Kress said the patrol had 60 days tops to get the money together.
Susan Brustmann, executive director of the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, said her organization was used to delays in funding. But if the institute does not receive member item funding at all, the organization will be hit hard, she said.
Waiting isnt a problem. Weve learned to do it, she said. But if we dont get it, well be in trouble.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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