Tuesday, September 21, 2010 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Balancing Budgets on the Backs of the Poor and Sick

Governor Paterson has vetoed legislation that would have eased rent burdens for poor New Yorkers living with AIDS, many of them formerly-homeless.  And the pundits who urged him to do so should shoulder some of the blame.

The legislation limits to 30 percent the share of income that poor New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, who are already receiving a housing benefit through the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration, pay towards rent. Currently many of these low-income tenants pay more than half of their meager incomes towards rent, and many suffer eviction and displacement and see their health deteriorate because of high rent burdens.

The bill had passed both the New York State Assembly and Senate by wide margins, and had the strong backing of dozens of AIDS service providers and advocates, including the New York City AIDS Housing Network and Housing Works. Moreover, the Governor had signaled to many supporters that he was in favor of signing the bill into law.

Still, Mayor Bloomberg and a host of "slash-the-budget-no-matter-what" pundits had urged Paterson to veto the bill, despite the fact that research shows that additional costs would be at least partially offset by preventing evictions and other expensive dislocations of vulnerable, rent-burdened tenants.

Nevertheless, on Friday, Paterson reversed himself and vetoed the bill, as the New York Times and other news organizations reported. The Governor claimed he did so because of fiscal concerns -- but again, those concerns were wildly overstated by the Bloomberg administration and other opponents of the bill.

Paterson's harsh veto means more poor and ill New Yorkers will be at risk of eviction and homelessness. But it should satisfy the chorus of pundits who've been urging the Governor and State Legislature to slash the State budget no matter what impact those devastating cuts have on low-income and working class New Yorkers -- the same pundits, interestingly, who relentlessly oppose even temporary tax increases on Wall Street executives and other wealthy people.

Bill Hammond of the New York Daily News is a prime example of these "slash-the-budget" pundits. Indeed, back in January he was already beating the drum about defeating the rent-cap bill for poor New Yorkers living with AIDS, and he and his ‘slash-the-budget" brethren should share some of the blame for what happens to poor tenants living with AIDS.

As the Coalition and others have repeatedly stated, there is no question that confronting New York's current fiscal crisis will require tough choices. But all New Yorkers, including the wealthy and those who've weathered the economic crisis relatively unharmed, should share the burden. Unfortunately, some pundits think that the poor and sick should pay the price.



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