December 12, 2018

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Kowal talks MOE, SUNY on "Capital Tonight"

uupdate 12-12-18

CLICK HERE to view "Capital Tonight" on demand

UUP President Fred Kowal urged the governor to sign an enhanced maintenance of effort for SUNY during an Dec. 12 appearance on Spectrum cable’s statewide political news show “Capital Tonight.”

He also called on SUNY to be more forceful when it comes to advocating for more funding and resources for the University.

“Given what’s happening nationally, with a general rollback of all the progressive successes of the past century or so, it is incumbent upon New York state to show the rest of the nation how a progressive state can operate for the well-being of its citizens,” Kowal told “Capital Tonight” host Liz Benjamin. “I would hope the governor would sign the MOE this time around, to make a clear statement that New York will buck the trend.”

The governor has twice vetoed the measure, which would cover mandatory campus expenditures such as building rentals, utility costs, collectively bargained salary increases and fringe benefits, and inflationary and student credit increases.

It would also include SUNY’s state-operated hospitals. Without MOE protections, SUNY’s hospitals are vulnerable to state funding cuts that could weaken their ability to provide the highest quality health care to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who depend on them as primary care centers.

“By signing the MOE, it will establish a financial foundation for SUNY moving forward,” Kowal said.

SUNY, step up

Kowal said he was hoping for a stronger state budget proposal from SUNY, and urged the University’s leaders to make more of a push for the University with lawmakers, particularly for funding for cash-strapped campuses.

“It is necessary for SUNY to advocate aggressively with the Legislature for additional resources,” said Kowal. If it is in fact true, and we’ve heard it from campus leaders and our own members that there are campuses that are hurting, then it would have been useful for SUNY to put into its budget request for more resources for these areas to cover (UUP’s) negotiated salary increases.”

He also defended the union’s new six-year contract with the state, which some campuses say is forcing them to consider program and services cuts to close budget deficits. UUP made a number of harsh concessions in its last contract with the state, including foregoing raises in the first three years of the pact and incurring 9 deficit reduction days.

Help for the hospitals

Kowal also called on the governor and legislators to restore the $80 million hospital subsidy to SUNY’s three teaching hospitals.

Kowal said restoring the hospital subsidy is imperative if the state is “committed to being the state with the best health care system in the country.”

“It is absolutely necessary that the governor and the Legislature put that subsidy in place for the SUNY hospitals,” he said.

Last year, lawmakers did away with the hospital subsidy, substituting $92 million in one-time funding from the Care Restructuring Enhancement Pilots program funding. Those dollars are not expected to be available in 2019-20.

The teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Syracuse and Stony Brook are known as hospitals of last resort; they provide care to everyone, whether or not they can pay. They also provide a pipeline of doctors and medical professionals to New York City and the state.

New political landscape

Kowal also expressed optimism that the Democrat-controlled Legislature will be more open to UUP’s advocacy requests for SUNY. He said he looked forward to working with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will be the Senate majority leader starting Jan. 1.

“There has been a cataclysmic change in New York state politics,” said Kowal. “We have a new, significant majority in the state Senate on the Democrat side, and know that (Stewart-Cousins) has s been an ally of ours who is strongly supportive of public higher education.”

On demand

You must be a Spectrum subscriber to watch “Capital Tonight.” You can watch Kowal's segment on demand on Channel 1020 in Buffalo, the Capital Region, Jamestown, Rochester, the Southern Tier, and Syracuse and Watertown. Hudson Valley viewers can watch it on demand on Channel 1111.

Click the link above to watch the segment online.

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