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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
Lisi’s cell number: (518) 944-9528


January 15, 2009

UUP: Spare SUNY from further cuts; SUNY hospitals in dire straits

ALBANY — The State University of New York cannot absorb further reductions in state support, and SUNY’s three teaching hospitals are at the breaking point as they face a $25 million cut in state funding, according to the leader of United University Professions, the union that represents academic and professional faculty at SUNY.

UUP President Phillip H. Smith told lawmakers during a joint legislative hearing on the governor’s Executive Budget that SUNY bore the largest reduction of any state agency in the current fiscal year — $148 million – and he urged lawmakers to restore some of that amount.

“The issue here is whether SUNY can continue to provide accessible public higher education and quality health care for New Yorkers,” Smith said. “I would argue that even during these difficult times, the state must give SUNY the funding it needs to fulfill its core mission.”

“Full-time faculty continues to be depleted with the result that courses are being cancelled, class sizes are increasing to unacceptably high levels, and admission is being denied to tens of thousands of qualified high school and community college graduates,” he added.

In regard to SUNY’s three teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse, Smith lamented the governor’s proposed budget continues the state’s trend of inadequate funding by reducing state support by $25 million, bringing the state’s funding level below what it was a decade ago.

“The quality of health care provided by these institutions is at great risk,” Smith warned. He noted that as public facilities, SUNY hospitals are required to serve not only underinsured and uninsured patients, but also those referred with medical conditions that require costly treatment. Smith asked lawmakers to reverse the $25 million cut, and increase the state subsidy by $40 million.

Additionally, Smith appealed to lawmakers to reject the governor’s budget proposal to eliminate this year’s scheduled salary increase for UUP members, saying it would breach the union’s contract with the state. He also urged legislators to vote against proposals for another five-day pay deferral and a new Tier V pension benefit.

Smith also called upon the Legislature to reject the governor’s budget proposal to merge the New York State Theatre Institute with “The Egg,” saying NYSTI’s education-based mission may be “seriously compromised” by merging with a solely performance-based organization.

UUP does find some good elements in the Executive Budget. Smith asked the panel to support portions of the Executive Budget that would:

  • Produce a net increase of about $40 million in SUNY operating funds during the next 18 months from higher tuition revenues;
  • Create a $75 million supplemental operating aid fund derived from the University’s reserves and uncommitted fund balances and dedicate those funds to prevent any further erosion of academic quality, increased class sizes and cancelled classes; and
  • Restore $4.4 million for the Equal Opportunity Programs and Equal Opportunity Centers cut in last year’s spending reductions.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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