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Governor Cuomo: Coming Up Short In the Eyes of Many Worker Advocates

January 24, 2013
Joe Maniscalco

"I was hoping that the governor would allocate monies to reverse deep cuts to SUNY Downstate, which is already in financial distress," said United University Professions SUNY Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud.  Labor groups counting on Governor Andrew Cuomo to help infuse SUNY Downstate Medical Center with some much needed cash before it soon runs out of money, are finding very little in the 2013-14 executive budget to get excited about.

"UUP plans to continue the fight to have the New York State Legislature allocate appropriate funds to offset SUNY Downstate's financial problems which were outlined in the audit report released on January 17 by NYS Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli. He cited that one of the primary reasons for the hospital's financial stress was weak governance and ineffective financial management."

Despite the audit's findings, the governor's 2013-2014 Executive Budget actually calls for a $28 million reduction to the $87.8 million state subsidy that had been split between SUNY Downstate and two other teaching hospitals on Long Island and in Syracuse.

“The Executive Budget fails to address the needs of SUNY’s three teaching hospitals—Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Stony Brook Health Sciences Center on Long Island and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse,” UUP President Phillip H. Smith said. “These hospitals rely on the subsidy to fulfill their mission to serve everyone in need of medical care, regardless of their ability to pay. They cannot perform that mandated duty with a loss of 32 percent of their funding.”

Like Blackman-Stroud, Smith and the rest of UUP is now counting on the New York State Legislature to revise the $136.5 billion Executive Budget to include more funding for the hospitals.

But labor's problems with Cuomo's efforts to reduce the state's budget-gap don't end there.

The Public Employees Federation (PEF) is also unhappy about the governor's proposal to close two prisons - Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan and Beacon Correctional Facility in Dutchess County. Beyond that, PEF also worries about what impact the state's continued drive to relinquish control of a number of juvenile detention centers and shifting infrastructure improvements away from public employees in favor of private consultants, will have on its membership.

"We agree with Governor Cuomo that New York can do what needs to be done to move the state forward when we all work together," PEF President Susan Kent said. "But, we are concerned about a number of issues put forward in the Executive Budget that we believe could negatively impact the public services PEF members provide. We will be more effective helping the governor if we are afforded the opportunity to be at the table for appropriate workforce planning, as I have been advocating."

PEF is pushing for greater transparency for the taxpayers through a cost benefit analysis, which the governor already vetoed last year.

Even when Cuomo backs an initiative that has far-reaching support among coalitions of grassroots groups and organized labor - like raising the state minimum wage to $8.75 by July 1, he's still being criticized for coming up short.

"This $1.50 raise is a meaningful increase on a common sense timeline, and the governor standing behind it demonstrates a real commitment to New York's working families and the businesses and local economies that they support," said Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Deborah Axt.

"We expect the budget process to ensure that this critical step becomes a lasting part of the governor's and this legislature's legacy; however, the measure still requires some form of indexing or regular minimum wage increase in order to keep pace with cost-of-living increases going forward."

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