SUNY/CUNY Capital Plan:
From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Ron Canestrari • Chair, Higher Education Committee
Every year the Assembly fights to prevent the governor’s cuts to New York’s colleges and universities. He has now found another way to undermine education in this state: by refusing to come up with a comprehensive capital plan for the State University of New York and the City University of New York.
As a result, important construction projects have been put on hold, leaving health and safety hazards uncorrected, eliminating valuable jobs, and reducing the quality of education SUNY and CUNY schools provide.
The Assembly – which has strongly supported SUNY and CUNY over the years – would have fully funded the school systems this year, but refused to act irresponsibly by blindly spending billions of taxpayer dollars.
The governor’s budget included new capital appropriations of $2.5 billion for SUNY and $1.1 billion for CUNY. During budget negotiations, the Assembly repeatedly requested the necessary information to properly analyze the proposal. Unfortunately, the governor refused to provide that information, resulting in a deferral of significant portions of the governor’s plan.
So many questions, so few answers
In 1998, five-year capital plans with itemized expenses were developed for the SUNY and CUNY systems. However, in a departure from past practice, the governor’s recent proposal establishes no timeframe for a new plan and does not list specifically what projects will receive funding and how much they will get. It is clearly an attempt to restrict legislative oversight of the plan and turn the proposal into a $3.6 billion "blank check" for the governor to use any way he wants.
Many questions remain regarding the governor’s proposal that must be answered before the Assembly can approve the plan: What projects will be funded in the SUNY/CUNY capital plans? How much will they cost? When will they be funded? How many years will the capital plan cover? Does the delay in approval of the plan change the cost? Is the proposal large enough to meet the needs of SUNY and CUNY?
Problems linger as governor stalls
Nearly 85 percent of SUNY’s approximately 3,000 buildings are at least 20 years old and need renovation, rehabilitation and repair. The supposed focus of the proposed SUNY capital plan was for critical maintenance on campuses in the system. Again, due to the structure of the governor’s proposal, it is impossible to determine the specific projects that would be funded. As the months drag on, the health and safety problems at these schools are likely to get worse.
The lack of a viable capital plan has caused other problems as well. Valuable construction jobs were lost as projects came to a standstill. If the governor had done the capital plan right the first time, many communities badly in need of jobs could have put people to work.
The Assembly Majority demands accountability
Recently, the Assembly Majority held public hearings on the matter in an effort to bring this problem to the taxpayers’ attention and to force the governor to release the details of his SUNY/CUNY capital plan. New York’s students deserve to receive an affordable, quality education in safe and up-to-date buildings.
New York State Assembly
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