A Message from President Barbara Bowen
We got the news at midnight Friday that Governor Cuomo vetoed the Maintenance of Effort bill. We had been receiving signals for more than a month that there would be a veto, but we continued to press till the final night.
Governor Cuomo’s veto represents a decision not to invest in sustaining top-quality college education for the working people, the poor and the people of color in New York. His position is now absolutely clear. (See a fact sheet on the Governor’s Austerity approach to CUNY.)
Cuomo had the chance with this bill to take an action that had huge bipartisan support and that would have resonated not only in New York City but across the state. He deliberately refused that chance, despite his repeated claims of being a leader in progressive policy. He cannot be a progressive while systematically withholding funds from CUNY.
No doubt Cuomo’s defense – which will soon appear in the veto message – will be that the bill would take spending over the 2% cap he has imposed on any increases. But what is the justification for the 2% cap? Nothing. With State revenues up by 5.6% this year, there is no fiscal justification for imposing such a cap. It is simply austerity politics: the decision to transfer wealth from the many to the few and call it “necessity.” And like everything else in this country, austerity policy cannot be separated from the issue of race.
Austerity policy means that we in the faculty and staff have been subsidizing New York State as our salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that students have been forced to facilitate the State’s disinvestment in their education as they pay an ever-greater share of the costs. It means that CUNY and SUNY are prevented from making enhancements desperately needed after decades of fiscal starvation, and that endless tuition increases are demanded just to keep the universities afloat.
You, as PSC members, did an exceptional job of supporting this bill. The bill would not have been passed and sent to the Governor without our collective work. You mobilized to get thousands of messages from members, first to the Legislature and then to the Governor. You collected 40,000 postcards on the MOE from students. You travelled to Albany and organized here in the city.
And the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Kenneth La Valle, deserve our thanks. They went beyond sponsorship to tenacious support.
The union’s work is not wasted. We have made it clear to Albany that the issue of CUNY funding has deep support and that it will not go away. We will not be stopped by one veto. The PSC already has in place our response to the veto and the next steps in our campaign. The fight will continue – and escalate.
With enough depth among our own membership and breadth among our allies, it is a fight we can win.