ALBANY — Fearful of painful budget cuts, the powerful state healthcare industry is preparing to spend $ 6 million on a “shock and awe” campaign during the upcoming state budget battle, the Daily News has learned.
The outlay is the largest by the industry during budget talks since Gov. Cuomo’s first year in 2011.
A paid digital ad effort directed at voters will start following Cuomo’s budget address on Tuesday, a source with the campaign said.
A big rally is scheduled for Feb. 12 at the state Capitol followed the next day by the start of a multi-million dollar statewide TV and radio ad campaign that will run through the end of March, when the new budget is due.
The effort will be funded by the Healthcare Education Project, a joint lobbying effort of the Greater New York Hospital Association and Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union representing healthcare workers. The source with the campaign said the effort will be targeted at the Legislature. Meetings with individual lawmakers have already begun and will intensify as the budget talks heat up.
“In the face of a relentless attack from Washington on funding for healthcare, we need our legislative leaders to stand up and protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said 1199 President George Gresham.
And with the state facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, the groups fear the Legislature will hit them disproportionately compared to other big-ticket budget areas like education.
State Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican considering a run for governor, recently said while he doesn’t expect any cuts to education, he believes there is room for reductions in the Medicaid program.
The healthcare industry argues the hospitals in recent years have seen far slower growth in spending than education and believes there should be parity this year.
President of the Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, George Gresham, has been targeting and urging legislative leaders to help “protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
“New York’s financially struggling hospitals were living austerely within the State’s Medicaid spending cap well before the recent avalanche of Federal health care cuts, while other sectors, such as education, have not been held to theirs,” said Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association. “And it’s literally been a decade since hospitals have seen a single rate increase to help cover their ever-rising costs.”
Without providing any details, Cuomo in his recent State of the State address said “we must continue our investment in healthcare.”
He talked of preserving the Medicaid program and a federally-funded health insurance program for poor children.
“In New York, healthcare is not just for the rich, it’s a human right,” he said. “And we’re going to protect it. And we’re going to preserve it.”
Meanwhile, education advocates on Tuesday began their lobbying efforts with a rally calling on more equitable funding for high-needs schools across the state. They are calling for about $ 2 billion in additional school aid.
They argue that New York still owes schools $ 4.2 billion from a lawsuit that said New York City schools were traditionally underfunded.
Gov. Cuomo in the past has said the lawsuit’s obligations were met. But in his State of the State address he said he wants to pump more money to poorer schools.
“Gov. Cuomo admitted that we need to fund schools more equitably, but saying it is not enough — he has to take action and actually invest in our schools and communities,” said Sheree Gibson, a New York City parent.