SUNY budget to face still more cuts

If passed in its current form, Gov. David Paterson's 2009-2010 executive budget will implement several changes in an attempt to eliminate New York state's record $13.7 billion deficit.

A breakdown of the budget and the Deficit Reduction Plan indicates how much funding will be cut from virtually every area of the state's operations as well as what the budget will mean for the SUNY system.

This year's budget allots $3.5 billion less than last year for healthcare spending in hospitals, nursing homes and home care. The Department of Health will lose $390 million in state funding and the Office for the Aging will lose $9 million under the new budget.

An additional $3.1 billion in savings is expected through the implementation of numerous reforms, including reimbursement reforms and major changes in the acquisition and payment of prescription drugs. Medicaid costs are expected to increase by $432 million in order to implement new measures that will eventually save the state money in the long run.

K-12 education will lose $698 million in state funding, although at $20.7 billion it will remain higher than in 2003-2004 and most of the money from the economic stimulus will benefit this grade range.

Higher education will be hit hard by the new budget. Most notably, tuition on all SUNY campuses will increase by $620 for the 2009-2010 school year, and each campus will retain a part of the revenue for the first time in 30 years in an attempt to make up for the loss of state funds.

According to Kenneth Levison, vice president of Administration and Finance, this measure is more about public image than real solutions, as Geneseo did not actually retain any revenue from this semester's tuition increase.

"This year, our campus has been cut over $3 million," Levison said. "10 percent of the tuition would bring in $161,000. If the budget is passed the way it is and we continue keeping positions vacant we continue with the 12 percent reduction of non-salary funds, and even if 20 percent of the tuition stays on campus, we will still have a gap of about $1.3 million."

Also being discussed is legislation allowing each SUNY campus to set its own tuition costs in order to offset its spending.

"The likelihood of that legislation passing is probably somewhere between 0 to 2 percent, though I would like to see this kind of reform," said President Christopher Dahl.

Those who apply for the Tuition Assistance Program will see increased academic standards for determining award recipients. A New York Higher Education Loan Program will be created to provide student loans to New York residents at lower interest rates than the private market.

Virtually the only area seeing increased aid in 2009-2010 is public safety, where funding for homeland security will increase from $198 million to $361 million. State police and correctional services will see smaller increases.

"This Executive Budget begins the difficult process of fundamentally reevaluating both how we manage our government and what the state can afford to spend in a time of plummeting revenues," said Gov. Paterson in a letter on the state Web site. "Change is never easy, but it is the only way we can put New York back on the road toward fiscal and economic recovery."