More than 100 United University Professions members from SUNY campuses across the state today appealed to lawmakers to restore budget cuts to the State University of New York and to increase SUNY’s operating budget. They made the pitch during the union’s Legislative Information Day in the Well of the Legislative Office building, meeting face-to-face with lawmakers from their districts to explain how budget cuts are affecting their campuses and threatening SUNY’s quality. The union arranged the Well into seven geographic regions representing all of SUNY’s 29 state-operated campuses to make it easy for legislators to connect with members in their districts.
UUP President Phillip H. Smith detailed the union’s 2009 legislative priorities, and urged lawmakers to protect the state’s future by reversing Gov. David Paterson’s proposed state budget cuts to SUNY. More than a dozen state legislators also addressed the attendees.
“New York cannot afford to abandon today’s students who are the workforce of tomorrow,” Smith said. “SUNY students are already feeling the sting of budget cuts, from increased class sizes to canceled courses to delayed graduations. Given this economic climate, we can’t allow SUNY to deteriorate, especially for the tens of thousands of students looking for an affordable, quality college education, and for workers who have lost their jobs and need retraining.”
Smith called on lawmakers to adopt a progressive income tax to raise state revenue instead of relying on spending reductions to balance the state budget. He recommended some of that revenue—and funds from the federal stimulus package— be used to relieve the financial pressure at SUNY’s teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse that are facing a $25 million cut in their state subsidy.
“SUNY hospitals are already near the breaking point,” Smith said. “Uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers who count on these public hospitals for vital health care services could be turned away if the state fails to provide adequate funding.” UUP is seeking a restoration of the $25 million cut plus an additional $40 million increase in the state hospital subsidy.
UUP members pressed legislators to support the proposal to create a $75 million supplemental operating aid fund which would come from the University’s reserves and uncommitted fund balances, and to use those dollars to prevent any deeper erosion of academic quality.
UUP is also urging lawmakers to reject legislation that would give individual SUNY campuses the power to sell or lease their property without legislative oversight. UUP members told lawmakers they also oppose the governor’s proposals to: withhold their 3 percent raise this year; create a new Tier V pension plan; add a five-day lag payroll; and merge the New York State Theatre Institute with The Egg.
UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 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.