Albany Advocacy Day

00:00:00 Speaker 1 

Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Todd Vaarwerk, chief policy officer of WNYIL. And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Todd. 

00:00:16 Speaker 2 

Always good to be here. 

00:00:18 Speaker 1 

And it's our pleasure too. 

You are here because a number of people from the WNYIL family of agencies went to Albany earlier in February to have a heart to heart with the important on the important issues with our legislators.  What can you tell us about what transpired there in? 

00:00:44 Speaker 2 

Well, as regular listeners of the program know, every year about this time, we're going to get some people that are interested in talking about disability issues and have them go to Albany. This is in response to the governor's budget. A lot of things going on in the governor's budget where things really aren't improving for people with disabilities, concerns about direct service professionals and consumer directed personal assistants and funding for the programs that we need in order to be able to live strong independent lives like paratransit expansion, dealing with the housing crisis. 

All of these things are kind of dealt with right now in on the budget side of with the way we advocate. So that's what going to Albany was about. We were, of course, very well received. The local Western New York delegation is, we have a strong acceptance of our issues by the local delegation. As a matter of fact, one of our state senators actually sent a letter asking about our independent living funding asked for 18 million. 

00:01:58 Speaker 1 

Ah alright, so, all in all you'd say that things are promising as a result of your visits with our elected leaders. 

00:02:10 Speaker 2 

Well, the 30-day amendments, which is also a regular part of the budget process, doesn't necessarily inspire me with confidence. I think there's going to be more work we're going to need to do. 

And this is one of those years what they refer to as a deficit budget year where revenues are below expectations rather than above expectations. 

So, a lot of this is fighting to prevent cuts in services rather than deliberately asking for increases. So, we were very well received. But the governor's third day, 30-day amendments didn't really do an awful lot for us and in some cases made things worse. 

00:02:55 Speaker 1 

Hmm, well, what's the next step of advocacy for us to do? 

00:03:00 Speaker 2 

Well, on individual issues, I think we're going to need to go back and meet with folks locally and keep them strong on making sure that they're bringing the concerns of people with disabilities back to Albany during the budget cycle. So, for those people that are interested in that, you can notify my office, 716-836-0822 ext. 101. You can email me at  

Or you can check out our web and Facebook feeds for any further information that's going to happen during the advocacy cycle. 

00:03:44 Speaker 1 

Is there any particular timetable that people should keep in mind when they get in touch with? 

00:03:50 Speaker 2 

You well remember that the budget ideally is supposed to be finalized by April the 1st. So, all this work we're going to do on the things that are important kind of have to be accomplished by April the 1st. 

Now we have had late budgets in the past. I never count on late budgets being late budget. I always think of that like a football game. You know, April 1st is the last day for regulation play. Anything like that is sudden death overtime. 

00:04:23 Speaker 1 

Oh right. Well, just in case people didn't have pencils at their beck and call when you gave it before, if I could ask for you to repeat the appropriate phone number for people to get in touch. 

00:04:37 Speaker 2 

716-836-0822, ext. 101. 

00:04:42 Speaker 1 

Thanks so much for being with us, Todd. 

00:04:44 Speaker 2 

Always a pleasure. 

00:04:46 Speaker 1 

You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Todd Vaarwerk, chief policy officer of WNYIL. And I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.