Activists Block $800,000 State Budget Cut to CUNY and city hospitals

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

In the state budget passed on April 1, lawmakers nixed plans to eliminate nearly $800 million in the state’s financial support for NYC Health + Hospitals and the City University of New York.

The original proposal would have shifted much of the costs for NYC Health + Hospitals and CUNY from the state to the city.

The loss of about $300 million in Medicaid assistance would have created a big hole in the city’s budget for the NYC Health + Hospitals, which is already struggling with a deep deficit.

If the CUNY cuts had gone through, the university would have faced campus closings, according to CUNY Chancellor James Milliken.

“This would have created an enormous financial burden on the city and a devastating impact on its public colleges and public health-care system,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “We couldn’t let that happen.”

DC 37 activists lobbied in Albany and rallied at the governor’s midtown Manhattan office against his cost shifting plans and the funds were restored in his final budget.Some 1,500 members also turned out for a demonstration on March 10.

Still unresolved, however, is funding for retroactive raises for CUNY workers. Some 10,000 CUNY workers have gone without a raise for seven years. Lawmakers said that funding will come at the conclusion of contract talks.

Garrido: “The time for a fair contract is now”

Garrido said the union will continue to pressure CUNY to come back to the bargaining table with a fair and reasonable contract proposal.

“We’ve done the work to to organize and mobilize our members,” he noted. “The time for a fair contract is now.”

Legislators also agreed to Gov. Cuomo’s plan to increase the hourly minimum wage to $15. But the $15 an hour minimum wage, which New York City will implement in 2018, will not apply to CUNY workers until contract talks are concluded.

The union successfully lobbied against Cuomo’s proposal to drastically change the state’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The plan called for changing the way a worker’s salary is calculated, reduced the benefits for hourly workers and prevented those with two jobs from being compensated for all of their lost wages. None of these proposals were included in the final budget plan.

Other highlights of the budget include $24.8 billion in school aid, a 6 percent boost, and $26.6 billion for capital improvements planned by Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is dealing with a record subway ridership.

Speaker Heastie key in deal

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey D. Klein negotiated the $147 billion budget with the governor and reached an agreement on March 31.

Garrido praised Speaker Heastie for his delivering on his promise to defend New York City in the budget negotiations: “The speaker said he would stand firm for New York City, and that’s what he did,” he said.

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