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Budget plan leaves out raid of SUNY foundation funds

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was among the most

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was among the most vocal critics of a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to impose a 10 percent "assessment" on the foundations of SUNY's four university centers, including Stony Brook University. He is shown in the Suffolk Auditorium in Hauppauge on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

ALBANY — The state budget will not include a provision to raid State University of New York foundation funds to help cover state expenses, lawmakers said Saturday.

“What a relief!” said Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). “This would have been a big mistake.”

Englebright was among the most vocal critics of a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to impose a 10 percent “assessment” on the foundations of SUNY’s four “university center” campuses, including Stony Brook University.

The presidents of the four universities had opposed the measure, saying lawmakers shouldn’t tap the foundations to help pay for the governor’s proposal to create a pathway to “free tuition” at public colleges for families with incomes of as much as $125,000 annually. In a letter to lawmakers, the presidents warned the policy could “lead to a downturn in giving to our foundations as potential donors realize that their deeply appreciated donations are not being used for their intended purpose.”

Though the governor had proposed the foundation assessment, administration officials contended it wasn’t intended to be used to supplement the free tuition proposal.

“It kind of took people by surprise,” Englebright said about the assessment fee that was first reported by Newsday and sparked a lengthy internal debate in the State Assembly Democratic conference.

In the end, enough rank-and-file lawmakers objected and the proposal was dropped from a final budget agreement announced Friday night, legislative and administration officials confirmed Saturday. The Assembly and Senate are expected to give final passage to the $163 billion budget late Sunday.

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