As I indicated earlier this week, we have been studying the Governor’s Executive Budget and the Chancellor’s State of the University System address. What follows is an in-depth analysis of all areas relevant to our work. As you may know by now, the budget is not good for higher education. However, I remain hopeful that our extensive work over the past eight months with our legislative friends will enable us to be successful in improving the final budget by April 1.
Here are the details:
OVERALL: The Executive Budget proposal for SUNY is essentially flat and includes no increases in direct base aid to the campuses. The Governor’s declaration of a 3% increase in support for Higher Education is largely due to: increases in fringe benefits costs that the state covers, an increase in bonded capital costs, and the proposed expansion of the Excelsior program. The Executive Budget includes nothing to address the 12-year disinvestment in State support for SUNY (beginning with State aid cuts 2007-08). Regrettably, the Chancellor was silent about SUNY’s need for additional State support in her State of the System address yesterday.
Rational Tuition and Maintenance of Effort: Unexpectedly, the Governor’s budget proposes to extend the current “Rationale Tuition Plan” and the existing Maintenance of Effort (MOE) language included in the 2019/20 Enacted Budget through AY 2024/25. This extension would allow resident undergraduate tuition rates to continue to increase by $200 per year while providing no guarantee of additional State support or any relief from the ever increasing TAP Gap that continuing tuition increases generates.
UUP Contractual Raises: The Executive Budget does not include the acceleration of $67.7 million in Direct State Tax Support SUNY requested to assist campuses with absorbing the impact of the second half of the retroactive salary increases paid in AY 2019/20. UUP and SUNY will advocate for this acceleration to be included in the 30-Day Amendment Period.
TAP Gap: Despite significant hard work and ongoing advocacy by our members and student allies, neither the Executive Budget or the Chancellor in her State of the System address uttered the words “TAP Gap”. Ignoring this problem does not make it go away, and the negative impact of this lost revenue only grows each year. This year the impact is over $70 million system-wide. The ever growing TAP Gap is a social injustice which deprived our campuses of desperately needed resources to meet the needs of our TAP-eligible students. We believe the Assembly and Senate members understand this issue more than ever before and we will continue to advocate for TAP Gap relief in the budget and legislatively.
Hospitals: On a positive note, the $230 million commitment of State Medicaid funds to provide the required match to federal Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding for the SUNY Hospitals was not disturbed in this year’s budget proposal. The Capital Budget also includes an additional $150 million in new capital appropriations for SUNY hospitals — $50 million each for Upstate, Stony Brook, and Downstate. However, the Governor’s budget does not include restoration of the State subsidy for the SUNY hospitals. In addition, to address the deficit in the state Medicaid program, the Governor has announced the creation of a Medicaid Redesign Team II (MRT II) to identify $2.5 billion in additional savings in Medicaid. It is unclear at this time what impact these not-yet-identified savings may have on our academic medical centers. We need to continue to re-double our efforts on restoration of the hospital subsidy and will closely monitor what impact MRT II may have and state budget negotiations roll out.
Capital Matching Program: The Chancellor’s budget request in November asked for the establishment of a Capital Matching Grant Program; a 2 to 1 match of State-supported bonds to Campus resources. The Executive budget proposal adopted this proposal and provides $200 million in capital appropriations for new projects which can only be accessed if campuses provide the match. This proposal divides our system into a collection of “haves and have nots”. We need a real capital funding appropriation that addresses deferred maintenance that our campuses grapple with following over a decade of flat budgets as well as a vision for the future that is green, efficient and attracts students to our campuses. We need to meet the needs of not just today, but tomorrow. We cannot do this with our aging infrastructure.
EOP/EOC/Attain– For the first time in many years the Governor is maintaining prior year funding levels for the opportunity programs and not cutting the legislative adds that we fight for successfully each year. This is a bright spot in an overall bad budget, but only if the funding table targets for Higher Education budget negotiations are not cut from prior year levels.
Individual Programs: The Executive Budget removes legislative adds (a $2.9M decrease in funding from 2019/20 Enacted Budget levels) for the following University-wide programs:
– ($0.7M): Small Business Development Centers
– ($0.6M): Graduate Diversity Fellowships
– ($0.5M): Mental Health Services / Tele-Counseling Network
– ($0.4M): Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion / Hispanic Leadership Institute
– ($0.3M): Cornell Veterinary College
– ($0.2M): Cornell Center in Buffalo
– ($0.1M): Center for Women in Government
– ($0.1M): American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project
– ($0.1M): Benjamin Center
– ($0.1M): Stony Brook Algonquian Language Revitalization
Our work will necessitate a lot of effort from all UUP members. There will be several calls to action including rallies at several campuses and direct advocacy in Albany and in-district. Today I am on my way to NYC for a meeting of the NYSUT Higher Ed Policy Council. Unified as we must all be, tonight and tomorrow I will be working with our colleagues at NYSUT, PSC and Community Colleges on developing a collective strategy for this important fight. I will report back to the statewide exec board about this strategy and provide more details on Friday. I will brief Chapter Presidents on the next conference call scheduled for February 11th and 13th. We are also working diligently with the Fiscal Policy Institute, NYPIRG, SUNY Student Association, PSC, CUNY SS, and NYSUT on pursuing progressive revenue raisers to support higher education.
Fred Kowl – UUP President