For Immediate Release
April 7, 2021
Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions, the nation’s largest higher education union, said today that he was “bitterly disappointed” over the lack of funding for SUNY’s public teaching hospitals in the new 2021-2022 state budget.Kowal said SUNY’s academic medical centers in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse—where thousands of essential SUNY health care workers have been putting their lives on the line each day to care for COVID-19 patients—received no state funding in the budget.
“It’s shocking to me that when the state of New York needed a COVID-only facility in New York City, it turned to Downstate to fill that role,” Kowal said. “But there is no money in this budget to cover the necessary costs the hospitals face: debt servicing and fringe benefit costs. Other state agencies don’t have to pay these costs. How can the governor and Legislature ignore the work these hard-working, dedicated health care professionals have taken on to defeat COVID? It's unconscionable.”
Stony Brook University Hospital and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse also dealt with an influx of COVID-19 patients during the second and third waves of coronavirus in New York, and continue to treat COVID patients even as they provide the education and training for the next generation of health care professionals.
Unlike the SUNY four-year campuses, the hospitals received very little federal aid in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
The new state budget does include dollars to close the TAP Gap—phased in over the next four years —more funding for SUNY’s successful opportunity programs, and enough operating aid to avoid any potential budget or staffing cuts being considered by campuses to close budget gaps.
Thanks to the work of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, SUNY got $915 million, which brings the total amount of federal pandemic aid to SUNY since last year to $1.7 billion.
Kowal also warned SUNY campus presidents that they will have no excuse if they make any budget or staffing cuts over the next year.
“Campus presidents should know that between the federal aid and increased funding to help shrink the TAP Gap, there is plenty of money available to get us through this crisis,” said Kowal. “There is no reason to even consider cuts, let alone make them.”
Kowal applauded the inclusion of tax hikes for people making more than $1 million, and corporate tax increases in the budget; they are expected to generate an additional $4.3 billion each year. UUP went further in its advocacy, pushing strongly for taxes on the ultrarich, a pied-a-terre tax and the reinstatement of the stock transfer tax. Those initiatives could have provided more than $20 billion in new revenue yearly.
“We welcome the new revenue,” said Kowal. “It’s a start and it’s moving us in the right direction.”
Kowal said UUP’s advocacy efforts, which are year-round, will center post-budget on the union’s New York HEALS (Healthcare, Education, Access, Leadership, Sustainability) legislative agenda. UUP has slated a series of policy roundtable events in April and May on sustainability (April 22), health care (May 6) and higher education (May 20).
“Our work has just begun,” he said.