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New York State must restore financing for CUNY/SUNY capital projects. (Inside Construction).

Thanks to the efforts of Governor George E. Pataki and the New York State Legislature, virtually all City and State universities have recently benefited from a host of physical upgrades at campuses throughout the public higher educational system.

Starting in the late 1990's, the state embarked on a multi-billion Capital Investment Program, which addressed critical health and safety needs, supported the integration of technology into classrooms and labs and improved the overall quality of student life at both the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) systems.

Unfortunately, the momentum is being threatened due to the turmoil surrounding last Spring's passage of the State budget for the current fiscal year. Despite detailed and strategic funding requests, a significant portion of the CUNY and SUNY capital program was left unfunded.

To its credit, the State Legislature adopted a budget that included important appropriations to pay for a host of SUNY hospital and dormitory capital projects, as well as for capital improvements to community college facilities operated by both the SUNY and CUNY systems.

Funding, however, for critical capital improvements to academic facilities at 45 senior college campuses throughout the SUNY and CUNY systems were tabled at the time and remain on hold. At issue is $1.7 billion in capital funding for SUNY senior colleges and $1 billion for CUNY senior colleges. The deferral is impeding necessary physical upgrades to institutions that serve hundreds of thousands of students statewide.

The City and State's educational facilities have long been major contributors to the region's long-term economy and fundamental to its quality of life. If New York State is to remain a conducive environment for business growth, it must prepare the next generation of leaders to meet the diverse challenges of the 21st Century marketplace.

This worthwhile mission cannot be accomplished without a firm commitment to continuously modernize the City and State's higher educational facilities.

The key to any sound multi-year capital program is predictability in the budgetary process. Therefore, the Executive and Legislative branches must work diligently to ensure the maintenance of annual funding levels necessary to support strategic long-term rehabilitation and expansion programs designed to improve health and safety, technology infrastructure and overall quality of life on all SUNY and CUNY campuses.

Further, the delay in appropriating capital funds to worthwhile projects robs the economy of the stimulus that is provided through the creation of construction industry jobs.

At present, the building industry is operating at less than full capacity, especially in niche markets such as educational infrastructure. Now is the exact time New York should be building.

Members of the Building Congress are urging Governor Pataki and State Legislators to make the swift review and approval of financing for SUNY and CUNY campuses one of its immediate priorities.

Richard T Anderson is President of the New York Building Congress, a nonpartisan public policy coalition of business, labor association and governmental organizations representing the design, construction and real estate interests of more than 250, 000 individuals.
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Author:Anderson, Richard T.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 3, 2003
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