The lean times continue in Sullivan County as the legislature voted on March 21 to cut the amount of money it gives to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County (CCE) by 20% or roughly $83,000. Before the vote, members of the CCE board addressed county legislators in an attempt to persuade them not to approve the cut.
As part of his remarks, board member Glenn Pontier pointed to the organization’s 100-year history. He said, “When Cornell started out, farms were centers of poverty. So Cornell went to them and said, ‘here are some scientifically based ways to farm, you rotate crops, here’s the kinds of seeds you need.’ And then they took home economics to the women and said ‘here’s how you budget.’ And they started a program for kids and that was 4-H. And today young, new farmers are starting out and Cornell is ready to work with them.”
Famer and board member Earl Myers said the surrounding counties funded their extensions at last year’s levels. He added that Sullivan County was the only county in the region that is gaining farms, mostly in the niche and organic markets, and young farmers starting out needed help from CCE.
The new executive director of CCE, Greg Sandor, said, “I’ve heard from a few people, ‘this cut will make you lean and mean. This will be good for Cornell, it will be a haircut.’ It’s not a haircut; it’s really taking us out at the knees.” He said if the cut went through, the entire staff would be switched from a five-day to a four-day week.
But given the financial condition of county finances, the board voted to move ahead with the cut as it did with most of the contracting agencies in the county. (See the contracts chart.)
Support for single-payer health plan
At the same meeting, the legislators were asked to show their support for a single-payer health care plan for New York. On March 7, assemblyman Richard Gottfried introduced legislation that would create a single-payer program, which is typically described as “Medicare for all.” In such a system, the role of health insurance companies is eliminated and the state pays for all health coverage through an insurance pool funded by taxpayers.
Priscilla Basset, co-chair of the Sullivan County Senior Legislative Action Committee, told lawmakers that such a system could be created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which became law in March 2010, because the act allows states to adopt their own healthcare systems if they are at least as comprehensive as the federal plan.
Also speaking in support of the single-payer plan was Dr. Herman Goldfarb, who said he had retired from his medical practice years earlier because he was disillusioned by the system of care in the state which is, in large part, controlled by health maintenance organizations. He said a representative from one of the organizations once explained their plan to him and quoted the representative as saying, “When you order a blood test for someone, we have a slush fund to pay for that, and we have you down for a certain amount, and if you order fewer blood tests than we’ve planned for, you’ll get a piece of the action.” He said what the representative said was “obnoxious.” He added, “Health is not a business; people who get sick are not customers.”
Seven of the nine legislators voted in favor of a resolution supporting the single-payer plan, although analysts say it has very little chance of passing.