Brown pulls trigger, more budget cuts

California Gov. Jerry Brown released his yearly budget proposal last Thursday, introducing the possibility of additional cuts to the California State University (CSU) system.

The proposed cuts come less than a month after a December trigger cut slashed $100 million from the CSU budget. That, combined with reductions in funding earlier last year, totaled $750 million in cuts to the CSU system.

In his proposed budget, Brown suggested a $200 million reduction in CSU funding if voters deny a tax hike that the governor intends to have on the ballot in November.

Brown explained his budget at a hastily produced press conference after the document was leaked online. He said a $4.8 billion trigger cut to public education, including the $200 million from CSUs, was not simply leverage to force voters to approve his tax hike.

“These numbers emanate from the bowels of the Finance Department bureaucracy, and as those emanations flow into the Governor’s Office, then I get them,” he said at the press conference.

Brown said the state has more needs and desires than money available, and the cuts are necessary to keep the budget balanced and financeable.

“Education’s a lot of where the money is,” he said. “And if you don’t have money, it comes out of schools.”

Budget cuts to the CSUs are split up based on student enrollment at each university: Cal Poly lost approximately $5.3 million from the $100 million cut in December.

Liz Chapin, a spokesperson for the CSU system, said university presidents were receiving information regarding the condition of the state’s budget for months.

“The campuses were already prepared for these cuts because they were contingent on the tax revenue,” Chapin said.

Still, Cal Poly vice president of administration and finance Larry Kelley said he was hoping the university would be able to keep its budget.

“The hope was to see state revenue improve to where we would not need that cut,” Kelley said.

He said the university budget is prepared for the $100 million reduction of funding due to a $498 tuition increase that was voted on last November by the CSU Board of Trustees. Though he promised no tuition raises during the 2011-12 academic year, he said the $498 tuition increase, which will begin next fall, should come close to replacing the lost funding.

But not everyone sees the tuition increase as beneficial. Sociology senior Daniel Galvan, who serves as chief of staff to the president of the California State Student Association (CSSA), said the association is opposed to all tuition increases, whether they are $1 or $498.

“As a student’s association, we are against any tuition increases at all,” he said. “Our students as it is struggle to pay for their education. Some of our students have to take on multiple jobs, and on top of that, if it’s increasing, another loan.”

The only student with voting power on the Board of Trustees, however, was absent from the November meeting in which the board approved the $498 increase. Steve Dixon, a graduate student at Sacramento State University, did not vote on the tuition hike due to an illness that prevented him from traveling to the meeting in Long Beach.

The CSSA issued a statement Friday after the governor’s budget was released, in which it called Brown’s cuts, including his proposal to lower financial aid, “disturbing.” The CSSA also said the governor’s claim that limiting financial aid will focus it to students more likely to graduate unfounded.

CSSA President Greg Washington said it is entirely possible CSU system-wide tuition will once again raise if Brown’s proposed $200 million dollar trigger cuts are put into effect this year or next.

“There’s not much more they can cut out of without raising tuition somewhat,” he said.

Cal Poly, however, is already working on a proposed increase in student tuition to combat declining class availability.

Kelley said the “student success fee,” which the Mustang Daily first reported on in November, is moving forward, with administration talking to students and gauging their reactions. Kelley said students have generally been positive about the fee.

This is due to what he said would be students saving money in the long term. According to Kelley, a student eligible to graduate a quarter early due to classes offered by the student success fee would save money by not paying for the additional quarter, which would outweigh the cost of the student success fee.

Galvan declined to comment on the proposed fee, but said it would be discussed in a future CSSA meeting. He also said that other schools have similar fees, and the CSSA has not taken a position on them in the past.