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Third time the charm for SUNY bill?

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Daniel Robison
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WNED
Joining a gaggle of other WNY legislators, Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) says he's determined to make UB2020 happen this time around.

The University at Buffalo's UB2020 plan is billed by the school as a "framework for the future," to help drive the economic engine that will transform the Buffalo/Niagara economy. But legislation critical to making that dream a reality has sputtered in the legislature twice.

Maybe the third time’s the charm for UB2020.  

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wned/local-wned-945715.mp3

More than a dozen legislators have penned a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo about the legislation, trying to get their collective foot in the door as his office prepares its budget proposal. The gesture is meant to show the governor that pressure will come from a bipartisan group.

“…coming together as a bloc - a voting bloc - and a bloc for western New York,” says Tim Kennedy, a state senator from Buffalo.

Kennedy says the key to success is convincing legislators from other areas of the state that UB2020 would help them, too.

“It’s important that we come together here today and pretty much draw a line in the sand to the rest of the members of the Senate and Assembly," Kennedy says. "This is going to be an issue that they’re going to have to deal with because we, in western New York, aren’t going to have it any other way."

Cuomo indicated during his gubernatorial campaign that he was supportive of the ideas put forth in UB2020, but hasn’t signaled his feelings since being sworn in.

UB2020 would give state schools more independence, like the ability to set their own tuition rates and to enter into more public-private partnerships. The legislation would also unlock potentially lucrative opportunities, not only for UB, but for the entire Buffalo economy as it tries to transition toward recruiting more research-based businesses.

Assemblyman Mark Shroeder recites the mantra of UB2020’s failure so far: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has acted as a warden.

“Over the last couple of years the reason we haven’t been successful has been because of Speaker [of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver] and the majority in the Assembly.  I can’t be any more clear about that,” Shroeder says.

But things could be different this time around, asserts Shroeder. Remember, the Senate passed the bill last session, and it's expected to be nearly identical in 2011.

“The difference this year is that the governor is going to push this," Shroeder says. "The governor is smart and creative and understands that he needs to have something happen here in upstate New York.”

UB claims the legislation would create 20,000 construction jobs and 10,000 long-term jobs.

“These are estimates that will have a resounding impact on the future of western New York,” Kennedy says.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.