July 6, 2010
State Budget Update
Last week Gov. Paterson tried to use the State budget fight to ram through his plan to privatize much of CUNY and SUNY funding. He did not succeed – and the July 4 weekend ended with the State’s expense budget passed by both the Assembly and the Senate, but the funding portion of the budget was only passed by the Assembly. The Senate will have to return to pass the funding bills. Meanwhile, the Governor has vowed to veto all the restorations contained in the Assembly and Senate expense budget bills.
PSC members have sent 5000 messages opposing passage of Paterson's proposed "Public Higher Education Investment & Empowerment Act" (PHEEIA) – a bill that would neither increase State investment, nor empower faculty, staff or students. “This bill would be a disaster for CUNY," said PSC President Barbara Bowen. "It is essentially a proposal to reduce public funding and replace it with private funding, in the form of higher tuition." (See the Summer Clarion, mailed out this week, for more.)
The governor had threatened that if the budget was not completed by June 28, he would put all his remaining budget proposals, plus PHEEIA, into the next emergency spending bill. Such bills must be voted up or down without amendment. Paterson was outmaneuvered, however, when the State Senate and Assembly passed a joint spending bill and sent it to his desk, making an emergency spending bill unnecessary. The Legislature’s spending bill restored CUNY community college and TAP funding, but not senior college funding. It contained no mention of PHEEIA.
Several Senate Democrats who support PHEEIA then threatened to vote against a subsequent package of revenue measures that would fund the spending plan. So while the Assembly approved the spending package on July 1, in the Senate it was not brought to a vote.
Meanwhile Paterson stuck to a hard line, vowing to use his line-item veto power to reject each element of spending that the Legislature had approved. That left New York with its spending and revenue plans unresolved. The Senate Majority Leader was still seeking to negotiate on PHEEIA before the Senate voted on the funding bills, but the Assembly Speaker said his chamber’s work was done and there was nothing left to negotiate with the Senate. July 19 was reported as a possible date for attempts to override Paterson’s vetoes, but both the date and the likely outcome were uncertain.
"Blocking the state budget over a non-budget item and one that would undermine access at CUNY is unconscionable," said PSC First Vice President Steve London. "If you haven't already, please send a letter to your State Senator demanding a vote on the revenue bill without PHEEIA language."
City Budget Update
The City Council has approved a 2010-2011 budget that restores most of the funds in City support for CUNY that Mayor Bloomberg had sought to cut. Budget restorations to CUNY by the City Council totaled $32.3 million, including two-thirds of funding for Vallone scholarships, half the funding for the Institute for Puerto Rican Studies and the Dominican Institute, and ninety percent of the funds for the Black Male Initiative. (See the Summer Clarion for more details.)
The bulk of what the Council restored was $22.6 million that Bloomberg sought to cut from community college operating aid. The restorations put City operating aid to CUNY community colleges above the level in last year’s budget.
“In such a difficult budget year, this is an achievement,” said PSC First Vice President Steve London. “And it’s thanks to everyone in the CUNY community who fought back against these budget reductions.”
The CUNY Board of Trustees Approves Early Retirement Incentive
On June 28, the CUNY Board of Trustees agreed to participate in the State’s Early Retirement Incentive. For information concerning the ERI, please visit the PSC website or call Clarissa Weiss, Director of Pensions and Benefits, in the PSC office, (212) 354-1252.
PSC Office Closed Friday, 7/9