Activists Swarm Hearing, Take Capitol Office, To Protest Pataki
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 6, 2003
ALBANY, NEW YORK--Dozens of disability rights advocates, some in wheelchairs, silently swarmed around members of Governor George Pataki's administration Monday as they testified in front of a joint legislative budget hearing on the governor's proposed spending plan.
The protesters held up signs that read, "Hey King George, can you live on $639?" and "Gov. Pataki, does my back really look like the right place to balance your budget?", and refused to leave the floor until the hearing was over.
Later, about two dozen demonstrators were less silent as they occupied a Capitol office. The protesters, most from Rochester and many in wheelchairs, blocked the entrance to the office for about 20 minutes, chanting, "Get your budget off our backs," until a Pataki administration official agreed to meet with them.
The advocates are demonstrating Pataki's proposal that would give no cost-of-living increase to 600,000 low-income residents with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Pataki hopes to save New York $26 million by reducing the state's SSI contribution by $13 a month -- the exact amount the federal government is increasing the benefits.
Pataki has also proposed cutting billions of dollars from education and health care, in an attempt to close an $11.5 billion budget shortfall.
"Pataki is tacky," Shirley Bain, a 76-year-old Rochester woman with cerebral palsy, told the Democrat & Chronicle. Bain said the funding Pataki wants to cut is crucial to her living independently in an apartment.
"If I dont have that I would be in a nursing home and I dont want that."