What’s in the bill?

It should be a simple question, especially since Governor Cuomo said that the bill in question—NY SUNY 2020—would come to a vote and pass last night.

But as of Thursday afternoon, no such bill yet exists, and uncertainty has replaced yesterday’s done-deal mentality. Despite reports from other news organizations saying that the SUNY 2020 bill was written and awaiting a vote, a spokesman for Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, the chair of the higher education committee, said that there is not final language on the bill yet.

“It’s still in a very fluid state, we have not seen final language,” he said.

As it currently reads, the SUNY 2020 bill would raise tuition system-wide by $300 per year for the next five years. Senator LaValle’s office also said that there is a provision that maintains state funding for the SUNY system at current levels.

More significant is what’s missing from the current version of the bill: the so called Keep-It-At-SUNY provision that would guarantee tuition increases remain within SUNY. In the past, large chunks of tuition increases have gone into the state’s general fund to help defray the costs of other projects unrelated to higher education.

The provision was at one point considered a deal breaker for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and many Democrats.

Senator John Flanagan also said he did not believe that the Keep-It In-SUNY provision was in the latest version of the bill.

“Let me just say this: SUNY Chancellor [Nancy] Zimpher, Governor Cuomo, and the Assembly and the Senate are dedicated to making sure the funds remain at SUNY, but that just hasn’t been committed to writing,” said Flanigan.

It’s unclear where the hesitation is stemming from. Governor Cuomo, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate Majority Leader Skelos have all publically supported the proposal. But it’s possible the provision had to be tabled to curry enough favor from both parties to pass anything at all.

Those reports run counter to our earlier post that quoted a spokesman from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who said that to the best of his knowledge the provision did exist.

Of course, all indications seem to point to a bill that is still changing by the hour.

The bill has still not appeared on the docket, so a vote is not imminent. But it could very well sneak in later this afternoon or evening.

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