Watch out UC – the budget cuts aren’t over yet.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a plan last week to slash $132 million in funding for higher education in the current fiscal year.
The $132 million includes $65.5 million in cuts to the University of California system and $66.3 million to the California State University system.
The governor called a special session of the legislature to meet this month to consider his proposal, which must be approved by the legislature in order to take effect.
Where exactly the cuts would be made is not yet clear, but leaders in Sacramento are already saying that they do not approve of the cuts.
“We must stop the devastating cuts that place education and the promise of our children’s future on a starvation diet,” said California lieutenant governor John Garamendi at a press conference outside the capitol building Friday.
Trimming down funding for UC is not a new concept. According to a UC press release, the state’s per-student spending on the UC system has dropped almost 40 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth.
The governor’s proposal to cut $65.5 million comes less than two months after he signed a budget that included $48 million less in funding from the state compared to the year before.
Garamendi, who also serves as a UC regent, criticized the strategy of cutting funding and asked instead for solutions that focus on “investment.“
“This is California,” he said. “We have all of the resources, especially our human potential, and most certainly the wealth we need to get us back on track.“
Garamendi was speaking at a press conference where he invited leaders in various fields to comment on what the best way to deal with the immediate funding gap would be. He was flanked by a group of UC Davis students holding signs that read “No more cuts” and “Don’t terminate school funding.“
Others speaking at the press conference echoed the lieutenant governor’s call for “investment” in California’s institutions.
“The leaders of this state must be stewards, and stewards must invest, not bring us down,” said Dennis Smith, secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Teachers.
The proposed cuts to higher education are part of a broader package of cuts and tax increases designed to address an $11.2 billion budget shortfall that has arisen since this year’s budget was signed into law six weeks ago.
In total, Schwarzenegger is proposing $4.5 billion in cuts to the current-year budget. This includes cuts to K-12 education totaling $2.5 billion. Other areas targeted for cuts include the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Medi-Cal, public safety grants and employee compensation.
His plan also includes finding new revenues for the state by temporarily increasing the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.5 percent, applying the sales tax to more services and increasing taxes on alcohol.
In a written statement, Schwarzenegger explained that the reason for the new budget shortfall was the rapidly deteriorating economy.
“In the six weeks since I signed our last budget, the mortgage crisis has deepened, unemployment has increased and the stock market has lost almost 20 percent of its value,” he said.
The legislature will be considering the governor’s proposal and potentially voting on it before newly elected legislators take office on Dec. 1. Davis is represented by Lois Wolk in the assembly and Mike Machado in the senate. Wolk’s contact information is online at www.assembly.ca.gov/wolk. Machado’s contact information is online at dist05.casen.govoffice.com.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.