It was clear during a joint subcommittee meeting Wednesday that the state Senate and Assembly have a long way to go before reaching an agreement on a higher education budget.
The main wedge is over a proposal that would shift 30 percent of the cost of City University of New York senior colleges to the city. Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the measure in his 2016 executive budget. The Democratic-lead Assembly rejected the proposal in it’s one-house budget resolution, while the Republican-lead Senate supported it in its one-house.
The Senate Republicans at the subcommittee meeting again argued their support for the shift, citing a lack of response to several anti-Semitic incidents at CUNY colleges.
And an agreement could come down to a statement on the incidents from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and CUNY Chancellor James Milliken.
“I want to hear from the chancellor or someone there that they really were outraged by this, and I think people need to know that there is some feeling there,” Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Ken LaValle told POLITICO New York following the conference committee. “The mayor has been unheard. No one heard from the mayor on this in his city.”
Assembly Higher Education Committee chair Deborah Glick described the response from CUNY, including putting in place a task force to investigate these incidents. The Anti-Defamation League has also commended CUNY for its efforts, Glick said.
“We have never suggested in any [previous discrimination incidents] that the state withhold funding, and that is an outright concern,” Glick said. “We certainly want to be certain, as does the Senate, that all schools have the same availability of state funding, but also that they all provide a safe and respectful environment, and I don’t think the City University is really any different from other schools that have had these circumstances.”
Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Liz Krueger sent a letter to Senate majority leader John Flanagan Wednesday morning with the Democratic stance on the budget proposal and denounced the cost shift.
LaValle still contended that more needs to be done before the Senate would consider taking the shift out of the budget proposal.
“I say the plan goes a long way, but I think we need to hear something that they feel this is quite serious,” he said.
De Blasio, speaking with reporters in New York City after the Albany meeting had ended, said he doesn’t think the issue is a legislative matter.
“I oppose [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions]. They have their right to speak, but we have to make sure that the CUNY environment is a safe and open one for all. But that’s not a legislative matter. That’s an administrative matter and I’m certain that can be handled.”
CUNY did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other than the shift in funding, the Senate budget proposal also includes an increase of $50 per full-time student for SUNY/CUNY, compared to the Assembly proposal which would increase it by $100 per full-time student.
The Assembly proposal also includes the passage of a “maintenance of effort” bill that would require the state to cover certain year-to-year cost increases, such as collective bargaining costs, rent and utilities.
No table targets were provided.