16 December 2009

Now that the term is over ...

... exams are marked, and grades turned in, our thoughts naturally turn to things to come. No, not roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, but rather Schwarzenegger's January budget. The California Constitution requires the Governor to submit a  budget proposal to the Legislature by January 10. The  budget must be balanced, in that proposed expenditures must not exceed estimated revenues. The proposed budget is then open for comments and negotiations, on the basis of which the Governor comes up with an updated proposal, the May revise, to be approved by the Legislature, again by constitutional mandate, by June 15 (for fiscal year beginning July 1).

The bad news, of course, is that the State is facing a $21B deficit in the next year and a half, proportionally divided between one-third in the remaining six months of the current fiscal year (Jan-Jun 2010) and two-thirds for fiscal year 2010-11.

If you thought that last year's budget deal was mean, nasty and stupid, just wait for Jan. 10. There is obviously nothing left to cut in K-12 and higher ed (it's different story for the Dept. of Corrections, though, who are on their way to overspending their budgeted amount by about $1B this year). But we should not expect that to stop the Governor and the minority-ruled Legislature from going through the education budget like Sherman through Georgia.

In the face of this, the Office of the President has decided to put in a request for an extra $913M in funding for next year, which would restore the funding cuts from this year (with similar requests coming from Cal State and the Community Colleges).

We don't quite know what to make of such a request. On the one hand, it's good that UCOP is finally pushing back against the planned de-funding of UC; on the other hand, given the current state of the budget it might seem an exercise in wishful thinking. One particularly uncharitable interpretation is that UCOP is just trying to provide cover for an accelerated privatization trend, by putting in a request that they know the state will turn down in order to shw that they tried, failed, and so have no choice but to further cut costs and hike fees.

Whatever the motives behind UCOP's request, the UC community should make it clear to Yudof that he needs to be completely forthcoming about the consequences of the January budget for the University, whether they will include extended furloughs, fee hikes, layoffs, what have you. One of the reasons that led to the Sept. 24 walk-out was that UCOP waited until the end of academic year to request "emergency powers" and implement the furloughs, at a time when the campuses were empty, the students gone, the faculty finally turning to their research.

It's not only the faculty, staff, students and their families that need to know what to expect, of course. It's only right that the people of California know what the Governor and the Legislature are up to.

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