Caitlin O’Brien, New York State Government Relations Director

Caitlin O’Brien, the government relations director for New York, brings us an update on the New York state budget, and how it affects the policies and programs we need to help all New Yorkers fight heart disease and stroke. The Assembly and Senate have proposed their one-house budget bills which lay out the policies and legislation they hope to see enacted in the final State Budget. These bills, along with the Governor’s proposed budget, will lay the framework for the negotiations between the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator John Flanagan; the Speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie; and Governor Cuomo.

The Good

  • Both the state Assembly and state Senate rejected consolidation of all the public health programs into one pool. They further propose restoring funding to critically important and lifesaving public health programs. Two programs that provide resources, education, and prevention to New Yorkers across the state, the Hypertension Program and the Obesity/Diabetes Prevention Program, were at risk of being cut an astonishing 20%! These cuts would mean less money and resources going to preventing diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and type II diabetes. We’re glad the state Legislature understands the importance of these programs, and hope Gov. Cuomo will keep them in the final budget.

The Bad

  • The state Senate included some provisions detrimental to public health when they proposed removing a tax on e-cigarettes. A slight increase in the price of these products would mean fewer youth becoming addicted.
  • They also proposed a provision that would require that both the Assembly and Senate could only increase tobacco tax revenue with a two-thirds vote. We know from the declining rates of cigarette smoking after the imposition of a cigarette tax, that tobacco taxes work, especially amongst young adults. Making it harder to establish a tax on products like chewing tobacco and little cigars, the products young adults frequently use, will have a negative impact on health.
  • In addition, the Senate is proposing a stay of enforcement for the Tobacco Product Settlement Agreement provisions. These provisions require tobacco manufacturers to give millions of dollars to New York based on years of misleading the public on the dangerous effect of tobacco. This money, in part, goes to fund tobacco prevention in New York. The stay of enforcement means New York would not be able to collect these helpful funds.

What YOU can do

  • Contact Sen. Flanagan, R-East Northport, temporary president and majority leader of the New York state Senate,  and ask that he continues to support public health by:
    • making sure the final budget rejects consolidation and cuts to Hypertension and Obesity/Diabetes,
    • ensuring New York continues to fight against the tobacco industry,
    • making sure dangerous tobacco products stay out of the hands of our youth.
  • You can reach Sen. Flanagan at 631-361-2154; 518-455-2071; or flanagan@nysenate.gov. He is on Facebook as John Flanagan.
  • Join us on May 8th for Tobacco 21 Lobby Day where we let our legislators know how important keeping tobacco products out of the hands of our youth is.