Chairman Hayden. Members of SUNY leadership.
On this SUNY Day, I bring you the greetings of your New York State Assembly.
I know you have heard from the distinguished Chair of our Committee on Higher Education, Assembly Member Deborah Glick.
If you do not already know it, let me assure you that SUNY could not have a wiser, tougher, more dedicated champion fighting for you, than you have in Deborah Glick. She is an outstanding leader and I hope that you appreciate her work as much as I do.
Speaking of leadership, let me congratulate the Governor, Chairman Hayden, the Trustees, the Search Committee, and the entire SUNY family on the appointment of Nancy Zimpher as our new State University Chancellor. By all accounts, she is an outstanding choice to lead our state university system into the future.
I and my Assembly colleagues look forward to working with Chancellor Zimpher, Chairman Hayden, and with all of you to advance our mission of making New York's higher education system not only the finest in the world, but the cornerstone of a powerful, job-creating, 21st Century economy.
Obviously, that will be easier said than done now.
As you know, we are facing an economic crisis of epic proportions that has punched an enormous hole in our state budget; a hole so large, it will be massive even with the federal stimulus dollars.
This $14 billion budget gap requires that we make some very difficult choices.
Yes, we understand that our SUNY system has needs.
We appreciate the outstanding job our SUNY presidents have been doing to make more with less.
We recognize how important our SUNY system is as an engine for economic growth and as the core of the high-tech clusters we are building around this state.
You have heard me say this countless times. Our State University is among the better things New York has going for it.
It is inevitable, however, that difficult cuts will have to made and additional revenues will have to be raised.
It is inevitable that the goals we have long been working toward as a state will have to be delayed.
I can assure you that we will not allow the cost of addressing this crisis to be borne disproportionately by our college students and our working families.
We will ensure that the sacrifices required are shared by all New Yorkers.
We will do everything possible to protect our SUNY system and to mitigate the pain in the 2009-2010 state budget.
It is a defining moment for leadership. As we deal with the crisis at hand, we must also remember that the future - the very near future - is sitting in your classrooms right now.
We must find the will and the way to prepare our SUNY students for the challenges that lie ahead.
As bad as this recession is becoming, we know it will end.
The global competition will heat up again and the world economy will rebound.
It is up to us to make sure that our students have the skills and the vision to lead in their respective fields and to power New York to the front of the "economic pack."
That is the challenge that is ahead of us. There is no way around it.
So, let's work together to find the best solutions for our state and for our students.
As Carl will attest, my door - and the doors of my colleagues - are always open to you.
So, by all means, make the most of this SUNY Day, and thank you for being here.