Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours: Keeping up with Albany's Budget Process

The Middle States reaccreditation team has certainly chosen an interesting week to visit the SUNY Fredonia campus. We're all scrambling to keep up with the latest news from Albany and figure out what, if anything, we can do to influence the outcome of the New York state budget process as it nears its endgame. I'll start off with a quick recap of reactions to the budget resolution the of the New York State Senate.

UUP President Phil Smith sent the following email blast a few minutes after I posted my own reaction:

Today, the Senate released a Resolution on the Executive Budget and the Article VII Bill. To say that the language of this resolution is confusing would be an understatement. Nonetheless, there's several parts of this Resolution that would be harmful to us.


Resolution recommends a tuition increase of 1.5 times the 5-year average of HEPI, but doesn't provide appropriation authority for that increase.

Resolution does away with the Asset Management Review Board, but then goes on to allow public-private partnerships ONLY at Stony Brook and University at Buffalo. Does this mean there's NO oversight?

Resolution recommends differential tuition for Stony Brook and University at Buffalo, but protects CUNY students from differential tuition by campus.

Resolution lets stand the Governor's cut to SUNY appropriations! And....it calls for an additional cut of $15.4M to unspecified "university-wide programs."

Resolution supports the Governor's plan to eliminate funding for NYSTI.

In view of the dangerous nature of the Senate Resolution, I ask that you visit our Web site http://uupinfo.org/ and send a message to your Legislators to SUPPORT SUNY funding...and OPPOSE the PHEEIA. While at the Web site, please send a letter of SUPPORT for our SUNY hospitals and the New York State Theatre Institute.

It only takes a moment to send these four letters....and it WILL help protect our University....and our JOBS!

State-wide SUNY University Faculty Senate Chair Ken O'Brien sent the following email this morning to campus governance leaders:

Since we are constrained by our By-laws from an electronic vote of the Senate, we have adopted a procedure that will have the attached resolution as an action item of the Executive Committee of the Senate, that is the 5 sector reps, the Vice President and the Chancellor's representative. They, like all committees, can vote by electronic means.

I am distributing the resolution, as we did the revised chart (after UUP leadership sent me their complete file, along with an apology for their error) with the letter, the charts and graphs depicting the recent history of NYS funding, and the letter we sent to the Chancellor following our phone meeting last week. It is the item of the agenda for sector phone conversations that will be scheduled this week for each of the UFS sectors. These are intended to give your elected sector reps a better feel for where you stand on the issues raised by PHEEIA.

Is our action too late? Maybe is the honest answer, but probably not, inasmuch as the houses of the legislature are just beginning to report their staff positions on the legislation, and it appears they are coming to somewhat different conclusions, at least as far as initial public positions are concerned. Which means for us, having a voice in this process may have some small degree of influence.

As I have indicated before, we have taken this issue step by step, awaiting relevant information, which we then distributed. Along the way, there may have been missteps, but I think I have been true to the commitment that I made at the winter plenary, that you would have a voice in the public position taken by this organization, and frankly, the resolution is our best reading of where we stand as a group, not where I stand. At least the process has been as open and transparent as we could make it.

Carol Donato will be scheduling the phone conferences and the EC will then meet (electronically) next Monday.

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you all one more time at the Spring plenary in New Paltz next month.

As always, you can go to the SUNY Fredonia University Senate web site, click on the link to our ANGEL group and enter our Content area, Campus Initiatives folder, 2009-2010 folder, and finally our SUNY Flexibility folder for a copy of the draft Executive Committee resolution that Ken references.

SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner summarized the resolution in an email to campus leaders this morning, noting that

The "cap" of about 6% for tuition increases will be the lowest in the nation (Oklahoma and several others are next lowest at 8%, most are between 9% and 10%); however, this resolution represents the first time any part of the New York legislature has indicated a willingness to move some tuition authority to the Board of Trustees....

Overall, the Senate resolution represents some good news.  We still have a long way to go, but at least there is a “fighting” chance.

President Hefner passed along an email from Jim Campbell, SUNY's director of legislative relations, who noted that "The Assembly has not yet announced their 'one house' priorities. They have adjourned until [this] afternoon and we will update you as we learn more information. Both the Assembly Majority and Minority have called for members only conferences, which might lead one to believe they are discussing budget priorities."

So, yeah, lots going on in Albany and here at Fredonia, as I'm discussing with other campus leaders whether we want to try to pass a joint resolution on the NYS budget. Nothing can happen sooner than Thursday, as tomorrow the chair of the Middle States visiting team and Phil Smith will each be addressing the campus.

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