CSU budget escapes cuts, retains raises
August 29, 2007 10:34 PM
The California State University system was officially spared from funding cuts on Friday when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the 2007-08 state budget, preserving the state‘s funding compact with the 23-campus system.
“The CSU is still fully funded,” said Paul Browning, the media relations specialist for CSU. “Nothing has changed. Although, because of a 2.5 percent increase in student enrollment, the need for more funding than we currently have still needs to be addressed.”
The decision puts California Faculty Association members at ease following a period of concern. It was learned in July that a 1 percent cut from the CSU-CFA “Compact” funding was part of a plan to resolve the state budget impasse. That cut may have re-opened contract negotiations between the CSU and CFA, which had lasted for two years and nearly culminated into a strike before ending in May.
“We almost fell off our chairs when we heard they might not honor our contract,” said Alice Sunshine, CFA communications director. “We are already behind in money we need, and the idea that we might have to re-open bargaining was daunting.”
The cut would have meant a $28 million loss for Cal State‘s general fund, which would have undermined the compact’s guarantee and renewed the possibility of a CFA strike, the faculty union said.
“It would be as though these contracts were never enacted and undo what has been resolved in the recent contract fight,” CFA president Lillian Taiz said. The CFA represents about 23,000 faculty members on the system’s 23 campuses.
Taiz said the CSU is particularly vulnerable to budget cuts every year.
"We sit at a part of the state budget that has no certainty at all," she said. "Along with welfare and the prison system, we are what is called the 'discretionary' section of the pie."
The funding compact was enacted in 2004 and is contingent on each year’s state budget. It is effective until 2010 and provides a 4 percent increase in base funding, largely to pay the costs of instructing students and faculty salary. Taiz said the compact locks the CSU into a certain amount of money, but it does not guarantee that the university system will receive it each year.
"It's more like a handshake than a signature," she said. "It's a promise, but one that can be easily broken."
Taiz credited union members with putting pressure on lawmakers to secure CSU funding. The university-union salary deal — just one part of the state budget — was sealed in July one day after CFA activists flooded the phone lines of state representatives.
Lawmaker support for higher education was strong during the budget impasse. Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi reacted sharply to the proposal to slash the CSU compact and said in a statement that cutting funding from the already stressed budget was “tantamount to a farmer eating — instead of planting — his seed corn.”
Over the next few weeks, the CFA Board of Directors and the CSU Board of Trustees will meet to discuss the 2009 budget before beginning bargaining with state legislators.
“We dodged the bullet, at least this year,” said George Diehr, who is a professor at CSU San Marcos and was the CFA Developing and Bargaining Strategy Director at the time of the contract negotiations in spring. “Now we need to focus on getting more funding and ensuring that the administration is using that money on overarching areas, like enrollment increases and salaries.”
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