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The Assemblyman, His Brother, And Funding For The Disabled

11:38 AM, May 5, 2013   |    comments
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Mickey Kearns

West Seneca, N.Y. - Back in 1962, Governor Nelson Rockefeller visited the newly-opened West Seneca Developmental Center.

And it was there he met three year old Paul Kearns.

Paul's mother had written the governor, asking that the state open just such a facility for her son, and other developmentally disabled children in Western New York.

Seven years after that visit by the governor, Paul Kearns' baby brother Michael was born.

Now, fast forward 44 years: Paul's brother Michael is a state assemblyman.

And now, a different New York governor, Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting funding for the disabled in New York by $120 million in his new budget.

It should be noted that the cuts represent less than one tenth of one percent of the total size of the state budget.

During the debate over the budget on the floor of the assembly, Mickey Kearns revealed something about his personal life that not to many people knew about.

"This is a very difficult issue for me, I have a brother who was born mentally retarded," said Kearns. "We have to stand up to this governor and tell him it's not right that the people who need it most,(disability funding), the people who want it most, the people who deserve it most get this money! This is not only unfair, this is unjust."

Scott Brown: "How emotional was it for you to stand up on the floor and speak that day?"

Assemblyman Mickey Kearns: "It was very emotional. You know you're always told to prepare and I made notes, but it came from my heart. It was emotional and it is emotional today because this is your family member. If you can't help your family member, if you can't help your neighbor then what are we in this business for?"

Scott Brown: "Is part of this you speaking up for people like your brother who literally can't speak for themselves?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "Absolutely, absolutely, we need to be a voice for the most vulnerable. The definition of a great country, a great state is taking care of those who can't take care of themselves."

And Paul Kearns cannot take care of himself.

He speaks only a word or two, and needs help with just about every facet of his life - from eating to walking.

But Paul Kearns has a good life: he lives in a group home with three other developmentally disabled adults, and five days a week he goes to a state-run day care program that's filled with activities.

Now all of that, for Paul and others like him, is threatened by the state's cuts to the disabled.

Governor Cuomo said the cuts were needed because the federal government is changing the way it reimburses the state for caring for people with developmental disabilities.

The legislature was able to restore $30 million of the cuts, but that still means that as of April 1st, the state budget for the disabled has been cut by $90 million.

Because of the cuts, Sherry Cordero of Kenmore says her 21 year old daughter Gianna, who has cerebral palsy, will not be able to get into a state daycare program.

Sherry Cordero: "That is devastating for kids like Gianna, and there are a lot of kids like her. They need to have a place to go where they're safe and they're productive and loving life."

Assemblyman Kearns: "It's really so personal to me and it's really personal to a lot of people because they're scared for the future, and that's the what the state was (supposed to be) there for.

Now even though the governor cut funding for the disabled, he and the legislature somehow were able to come up with a plan to send $350 checks to people with children next year, which just happens to be an election year for both the governor and the legislature.

Scott Brown: "What does it say about a state that can send $350 checks in an election year, but can't fully fund programs for the disabled?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "It's unconscionable, it's despicable. I don't need it, my family doesn't need it. Why does someone who's making $350,000 in New York need a $350 gimmick check, that's what it is is a gimmick."

Scott Brown: "If you had the governor sitting here next to yourself and your brother what would you say to him?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "I would tell him governor, you were put there for a reason- not just to represent certain interest groups, but everyone in the state of New York. I'm pleading with him, I'm begging with him- do what's right, make the restorations, be a leader on this. Help those who can't help themselves.

Scott Brown: "And you're doing it for your brother, right?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "We're doing it for him, we're doing it for every person that needs the help. He's one of thousands throughout the state that can't speak for themselves and we're going to do it for them."

Scott Brown: "What does your brother mean to you?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "I'm very blessed to have him, he wasn't supposed to live too long and we've had him for quite some time. We're blessed that we've had him for so long. As my mother always says he's going right to heaven."

Scott Brown: "Did you have any concerns, and we talked about this, about having your brother on TV?"

Assemblyman Kearns: "Of course you do. I don't want this to look like I'm scoring political points. This was something I had to think about, I talked to my parents about, I talked to my family about and we talked to each other and said this would be the best possible process to start advocating for this restoration and I want people to see first-hand that it could happen to anyone.

"I know Paulie, if he could be the face of change for people's lives and get that funding then I'm going to do this. It was not an easy decision but I know it was the right decision."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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