Last week, on Thursday, February 4th, New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta — joined by United University Professions President Fred Kowal and Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen — testified at a joint legislative budget hearing on higher education that both four- and two-year SUNY and CUNY colleges will be a critical part of the post-COVID-19 recovery, underscoring the need for investments in these institutions now to prepare for workforce training needs in the years to come.
In his testimony, Pallotta noted that public colleges and universities have reeled from years of austerity budgets, in turn placing additional financial strain on the backs of students. While the executive budget again holds SUNY’s and CUNY’s instructional core budgets flat, if the state does not receive sufficient federal funding, significant cuts are on the horizon ($46 million for SUNY; $26.2 million for CUNY). NYSUT continues to advocate for a two-pronged approach to the state’s fiscal crisis that includes both fair funding from Washington and new state taxes on the ultrawealthy to help fund critical public services like higher education.
Other points he made include the fact that, at community colleges, the state yet again is not meeting its statutory obligation to pay 40 percent of the operating costs for these campuses. Another year of flat funding per full-time equivalent student also is likely to force community colleges to raise tuition and/or eliminate programs and student services. As well, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated local financial problems for both four- and two-year colleges. As a result, SUNY and CUNY both have made layoffs.
NYSUT has launched a statewide advertising campaign calling on the state to implement new taxes on the ultrawealthy to help fund critical public services, including public higher education, K-12 schools and health care. The union supports revenue proposals that include a wealth tax on New Yorkers with more than $1 billion in wealth, a new ultramillionaires tax on those with incomes over $5 million, a pied-à-terre tax and a corporate tax rate that matches what was levied on corporations and real estate prior to federal tax cuts in 2017.
The Fund Our Future campaign will continue throughout the budget season. More information on the union’s advocacy can be found at FundOurFutureNY.org