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SUNY Upstate supporters rally for more state funding

Members of UUP rally for more state funding for SUNY Upstate
Jessica Cain
Members of UUP rally for more state funding for SUNY Upstate

Rich Veenstra stood alongside his fellow SUNY Upstateemployees on the steps of Syracuse's City Hall to plead for more state dollars for the state’s public teaching hospitals.

The United University Professions chapter president painted a grim picture of the challenges Upstate is facing.

“Beds are closed. Operating rooms remain closed. Revenue is down,” said Veenstra. “Expenses are up, and the hospital is losing millions of dollars per week."

UUP president Fred Kowal said the state had made a deal to provide a subsidy in exchange for the hospitals' picking up the cost of fringe benefits and debt servicing of capital work, but that subsidy was later reduced to nothing.

“There literally is no public money coming into the public hospital,” said Kowal. “It makes no sense. And yet the cost, the combined cost in this fiscal year for debt servicing and for the fringe benefits is $230 million at upstate alone."

UUP is requesting $68 million for capital debt service relief and $143 million in critical mission funding for hospital operations for New York's three public teaching hospitals.

“All we are demanding is what any just society will provide: resources needed for the public by those entrusted to act on behalf of the public, the governor of the state of New York and our state legislators,” said Kowal. “As I said for too long, Upstate has been neglected and that must end now.”

The Rev. Beth DuBois said she sees firsthand the vital role Upstate plays in the central New York community.

“Our institutions, our hospitals, and our colleges are the pillars of our community. They hold us up,” said DuBois. “We can't let them crack."

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.