Double Worries For Agencies


Agencies in the UJA-Federation network are gearing up for a major funding shortfall at the end of the month, when allocations from state grants are due.
The emergency measures initiated by Gov. George Pataki and passed by the Legislature, which traditionally keep the state running until a budget is passed, this year have included only funds for health care, welfare, food stamps and state payrolls.
So when funds allocated before the end of the fiscal year expire this month, there will be no new funds for numerous other projects until a budget is passed.
That process typically takes months beyond the April deadline. But this is a particularly acrimonious year. Pataki, a Republican, has threatened to run the state on emergency measures until the Legislature agrees to his budget, which includes steep spending cuts in education and health care opposed by Democrats.
"Agencies may not be getting paid for their work in April for the elderly, young people or employment services," said Ron Soloway, managing director for government relations at UJA-Federation. "At the end of the month there may be significant cash-flow problems that could hurt their ability to make payrolls."
Given the slow crawl of progress this year, an early budget deal is highly unlikely.
"At the moment there is not a lot of hope before the Legislature adjourns for Passover and Easter that in the next 10 days there will be productive negotiations over the budget," Soloway said Tuesday.
Add to those worries the fact that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget proposal on April 15 is likely to include spending cuts for human services programs of up to 25 percent.
That means drastic reductions in reimbursements to the network agencies for child welfare services and afterschool programs, and the likely closing of several senior centers.
That could change if the City Council finds other funding sources for the programs, or if the city receives an infusion of state or federal aid.
"We expect and anticipate that the budget to be adopted in June is going to be a better budget than the one that comes next week," said a hopeful William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
Public approval of Pataki has plummeted to its lowest point in five years, according to a Marist College poll this week. Less than half of those polled, 49 percent, like the way the three-term governor (who probably won’t face New York voters again) is doing his job. That’s an 8-point drop from December, following his big victory over Democrat H. Carl McCall.

Pollsters attribute the slide to the bad economy, but there are other factors. Only 29 percent believe he has used his clout to secure homeland security funds from the White House.

Most Jews surveyed seem to have no beef with the governor, though. Fifty-seven percent approved of his performance, 5 percent above December. Given the larger margin of error for subgroups, the figure suggests no change.

"ìUnlike most groups where he has declined, Jewish support is in a consistent range," said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff.

There was a new seat at the table last week when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer convened their third meeting of advisers on new kosher consumer legislation.

Surrae Crane, director of social action and public policy for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, was on hand to offer some input on crafting a law that wonít run afoul of the Constitution.

Conservative leaders had complained that they were being left out of the process, notwithstanding the ruling by federal courts that choosing "Orthodox Hebrew standards" over those of Conservative rabbis was itself unkosher.

Crane said her movement favored a law similar to New Jersey’s in which merchants are required only to specify what standard of kashrut they follow. "We’re happy with the notion of disclosure," she said.

The confab was a rare instance of representatives of Orthodox groups such as Agudath Israel sitting down with a member of the Conservative movement to work on a common cause.

"ìWe’re pleased that there was a wide range of representation from both religious and communal groups," said Crane.
Outraged by recent reports of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian textbooks in local Islamic schools, Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz of Manhattan, who chairs the Education Committee, is seeking a meeting with school officials.

"Teaching intolerance and bigotry to schoolchildren is unacceptable no matter where it occurs," she wrote in a letter to the Muslim Center Elementary School in Flushing, Queens. "I would welcome the opportunity to persuade you to remove them from the classroom."

If that doesn’t work, Moskowitz is studying whether taxpayer funds for secular texts and other materials, provided to all parochial schools, can be used as leverage.

"ìThere is some [state] funding of the education of these students in a building where some of it is anti-Semitic," Moskowitz told The Jewish Week, likening the books to those used by Palestinians that incite hatred of Jews and Israel. "If the state were to inquire and express concern, it may encourage people to rethink what they are using."

The textbooks first came to light after a story in the Daily News reported that they describe Jews as "deceitful" and racist and Christians as worshipers of statues. One book instructs that "decadent and immoral lives" are accepted in synagogues and churches, according to the News.
Criticism hit close to home for Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind Saturday night when he hosted Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on his weekly radio program.

Hikind, who has been trying to reconcile his political alliance with Clinton and his constituency’s distaste for her, asked the senator a series of fluffy questions, the toughest of which had to do with her presidential ambition.

Brooklyn hard-liners made clear during her 2000 campaign that they would not forget her hosting of Palestinian groups in the White House as first lady or her embrace of Yasir Arafat’s Israel-bashing wife, Suha.

One caller to the show on WMCA (570 AM) suggested Hikind had gone soft.

"The Dov Hikind I used to know would have at least asked her about John Kerry’s comment that we need a ‘regime change’ in Washington," said Shani Hikind, Dov’s wife.