Gov, Mayor Play Political Football with $500 M. in CUNY Funds

Cuomo Wants de Blasio and City to Cover Proposed Cuts

By Clifford Michel

CUNY Chancellor James Milliken has sent a statement in support of the measure, citing the possibility of settling a contract with the CUNY’s professor union

CUNY Chancellor James Milliken has sent a statement in support of the measure, citing the possibility of settling a contract with the CUNY’s professor union

It’s all fun and games until the fight lands in your backyard.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he wants to cut state funding for CUNY by $485 million and aims to make the city pay for the difference of the budget.

The proposal promises to be the next chapter in the feud between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who have been quarreling with each other since June.

Their relationship has soured as the two have fought over how to fund the MTA, mayoral control of city schools, and real estate issues.

If neither the city nor the state reach an agreement, it is very possible that CUNY could face a steep budget cut.

Cuomo, who made the announcement during his State of the State address, aims to use some of the savings to put forward a one-time infusion of $240 million to fund expired contracts with CUNY professors and staff, who haven’t received a raise in more than six years.

While the budget will continue to be debated and negotiated for the next five months in the state Legislature, it is unclear if Cuomo’s administration has plans for the $485 million that they may end up saving in the upcoming year.

During his budget address, the governor did layout lofty plans to combat homelessness, build supportive housing, and paid family leave.

Cuomo’s administration wants the city to “pay a share of financial support that aligns with the City’s participation in the governance of CUNY,” according to a briefing given to reporters. (This refers to the five of the 17 CUNY Board of Trustee members that the city appoints; the state appoints 10).

Mary Beth Labate, the state’s budget director, said that the city can handle the additional costs (the state is also asking the city to cover increases in Medicaid costs).

“When you look at the puts and takes in this budget, the city continues to be a winner. We looked long and hard at the city’s finances,” Labate told POLITICO New York. “They’re in excellent, excellent shape. … We’re not doing anything that we think is not sustainable.”

Mayor de Blasio told reporters the day after Cuomo’s announcement that the cuts “will be harmful for New York City” and later saying that the city would fight those cuts “by any means necessary.”

While the city has a surplus upwards of $900 million, the city’s Independent Budget Office has said that the additional revenue has been put aside to address future budget gaps, POLITICO New York reported.

“For New York City, I think this is one of the worst budgets that it’s seen in a long time,” Maria Doulis, a budget analyst at the Citizens’ Budget Commission, told the news outlet.

Mayor de Blasio’s caution, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken was supportive of the Cuomo announcement, citing the immediate need for a new contract for CUNY professors, which he has called the university’s “highest priority.”

“While this suggested change appears to be budget neutral to CUNY over the long term, it would come with a much-needed investment that would contribute to settling our long overdue labor contracts,” said Milliken. “This recognition of the need for additional funding for our faculty and staff is vitally important.”

As questions piled up about the plan, Cuomo and his surrogates put blame on CUNY for not cutting back on excess when the state asked them to do so last year.

“We called for SUNY and CUNY to work together to come up with a plan to consolidate back office functions and administrative services to avoid the obvious duplication in facility administration and back office functions,” Dani Lever, a Cuomo spokesperson told several news outlets in a statement. “That call fell on deaf ears and no significant savings were offered.”

“This is unacceptable. Our goal is to reduce bureaucratic costs and target more funds to the classroom and faculty—we’re still working without a contract.,” Lever continued

“…The premise is to put all stakeholders at the table with a target savings number and to develop the reforms and efficiencies to reach that cost.”

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