Gov. Kathy Hochul has touted investments for SUNY in the latest budget, including $400 million in new operating aid and $1.1 billion for capital projects. 

Chancellor John King says the funds will boost staff pay to sustain SUNY programs and the public university system's first enrollment increase in a decade. The chancellor is ready to start work with advisers to make recommendations and explore future options for the future of SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

"We're committed to the strength of the health sciences university and to expanding health care services for the community," King said.   

United University Professions President Fred Kowal said the chancellor's presentation didn't give an accurate picture of SUNY's success as 19 campuses have longstanding deficits. The union leader says SUNY won't be able to support the next generation of health workers like Hochul and King plan if downstate isn't funded to keep its in-person care facility open.

"Otherwise, his statement about SUNY playing a role in educating the next generation of health care providers is remarkably cynical, in my estimation," Kowal said. 

SUNY's union supports the pay raises for staff, but Kowal says it still leaves massive deficits at multiple campuses, including Potsdam, Fredonia and Buffalo State. He argues it's a mistake for SUNY to not make those campuses whole with the additional operating aid.

"It is appalling that the chancellor will not, and he chooses not to, address the deficits at the campuses and has basically said to them, 'you're on your own,'" Kowal said.

SUNY says all campuses get a fair distribution of the increases in state funding. 

"Campuses have gotten double-digit increases over the last two years, significant new state resources, but they have to tackle that mismatch between their student enrollment and their staffing and programs," King said.  

Earlier this month, several arrests took place on SUNY and CUNY campuses related to pro-Palestinean protests over the Israel-Hamas war. King says individual campuses decided when to engage law enforcement. But he dismissed questions if the Legislature should hold hearings about the recent demonstrations and to develop a protocol for the future.

"I talked about those issues today, but we are deeply committed to free expression, a robust exchange of ideas, but we have a responsibility to ensure our campuses are safe," King said.

There's legislation that could advance before session ends to require a SUNY faculty member sit on the Community College Board of Trustees. SUNY's union supports the idea. King says he'll consider it if it passes the Legislature.