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Governor Paterson Asked to Unlock Education Dollars

May 5, 2008

Albany, NY — Give us back our money -- that's the message to Governor David Paterson from SUNY faculty over the higher education funding he froze in an effort to get a handle on red ink in the state budget. The freeze affects $110 million that SUNY (the State University of New York) collects from students, parents, and patients at university-run hospitals.

Phillip Smith is the president of United University Professions, the union representing SUNY faculty, and he says Paterson needs to unlock that money now, or the state university will face real troubles.

"I'm concerned about safety on campus. I'm concerned about increasing and swelling class sizes. I'm concerned about students not having access to SUNY at all."

Smith explains that, because the decision to freeze education funds comes on top of an earlier budget cut of $38 million dollars for the SUNY system, summer school could be canceled at a number of SUNY campuses. And he believes it could get a lot worse.

"You know, this isn't the governor's money, it's the money that comes in from parents and students, and in the case of the SUNY hospitals, patients or their insurance carriers. So why put it in a box and lock it up and let nobody have access to it?"

SUNY operates hospitals in Brooklyn, on Long Island and in Syracuse. Smith has talked to officials at the upstate hospital, and they calculate the governor's budget cuts mean they won't be able to fund critical services as soon as next spring.

"By March 15 of this coming year, they will have absolutely no cash at all -- they'll be broke. None of this is a good situation. Can you imagine having a major hospital in central New York, absolutely broke?"

The governor's office maintains across-the-board spending cuts are necessary to head off a five billion dollar budget shortfall in the coming year.


Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY