Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brown's Austerity Budget and the UC [Updated]

[Updated Wednesday 6/29 10:03am]: The LA Times headline says it all: "Democrats Pass Austerity Budget for California": "The Legislature passed an austerity budget Tuesday night that would cut from universities, courts and the poor, shutter 70 parks and threaten schools but would not -- by officials' own admission -- restore California's long-term financial health." As for public higher ed, the Chronicle reports that tuition hikes at the UC and CSU are a "certainty." Also check out the graphic above: "Trigger Cuts, Chopping Blocks."

* * *

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the austerity budget that was coming through the California state government. It all turned on Governor Brown's call for a special election in mid-September in which voters would decide whether to approve five-year tax extensions as an additional source of revenue to ride out the financial crisis. Today that proposal has been scrapped:
Gov. Jerry Brown relinquished a cornerstone of his budget plan Monday by forfeiting a 2011 tax election and securing a deal with Democratic lawmakers that shortens the school year if tax revenues fall short of optimistic projections.

After months of seeking GOP votes, Brown decided four days before the new fiscal year that a bipartisan deal was impossible. The Democratic governor wanted Republicans to pass a temporary extension of higher sales and vehicle taxes as a "bridge" to a fall election, but Senate Republicans would not vote for taxes.

"I thought we were getting close, but as I look back on it, there is an almost religious reluctance to ever deal with the state budget in a way that requires new revenues," Brown said, sitting at the end of a wooden bench in his office with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez.
In that earlier budget plan, Democrats in the California legislature proposed an additional $150 million in cuts to both the UC and CSU systems (that is, $300 million total), on top of the $500 million (again to each) that's already been cut. Brown vetoed that budget, but it's now clear that it wasn't out of a desire to protect public education:
Under the new plan, the University of California and California State University will each absorb additional $150 million reductions, for a total of $650 million apiece. They risk losing another $100 million each if the state falls short of revenues. The university systems already have said they will seek tuition hikes to offset new state reductions.
And it's likely to get even worse:
Based on additional revenues that have come to the state so far this year, the budget assumes a very optimistic revenue scenario for the rest of the year. But if the revenue estimates prove unrealistic then there are triggers for additional cuts. These include an additional $100 Million in cuts for both UC and CSU, the possibility of further cuts to K-12 and a further shortening of the school year [by seven days].
Yesterday, the Daily Bruin published an interview with outgoing chair of the UC regents Russell Gould, in which some pretty decent questions are posed (though there's not a whole lot of follow-up). One of the issues that came up was the recent budget passed by the Democratic legislature (on which today's deal is based). Why, the paper quite reasonably asked, should we believe in the UC administration's commitment to fighting for public education, let alone their strategy for winning that fight, especially when even the Democrats have apparently sold us out? Gould's pathetic answer:
Regrettably I think that Sacramento is listening to lots of voices. We’re among them, and I think we’ve got a stronger effort than we’ve ever had to push legislature and governor to push UC, but we’re fighting a lot of other interest groups that say, ‘We’re more important.’

Yet when I talk to legislators and talk to people in the governor’s office, they seem to understand the link toward building businesses, building opportunity and having (a) kind of society and economy that’s sustainable. But when it comes to the short-term decision they seem to put their resources in other places. And that’s what we’re continuing to fight.
And, right on time, UC president Mark Yudof comes out with a statement on his Facebook page outlining how the UC administration would "continue to fight," as Gould put it: by "fully supporting" Brown's attempt to balance the budget.
I fully support Gov. Brown's plan to bring the state budget into balance. This includes his call for an extension of certain temporary taxes that he believes is needed to act as a bridge until the plan can be placed before California voters.

In my view, what the governor has proposed offers the surest pathway available to a more stable fiscal future for all of California, including its public universities. Reliable state support is crucial to the continued excellence of the University of California and the students and families it serves.
Good to know you have our back, Mark.

No comments:

Post a Comment