Governor's plan limits higher education
January 28, 2010 9:06 PM
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed amendment in which General Fund spending caps would be imposed on state prisons and public universities should be rejected, according to a brief from the Legislative Analyst's Office.
On Jan. 6, 2010, Schwarzenegger proposed a state constitutional amendment that would require the General Fund to dedicate no more than 7 percent of state spending to corrections and no less than 10 percent to the California State University and University of California systems. Although this is intended to boost funding for higher education, many believe that limiting state funding could cause more bad than good.
"I think the last thing California needs are more restrictions on the budgetary process," said Betty Blecha, professor of Economics at SF State. "The forecasts of economic recovery say that California is the slowest and institutional failure is the basis of these findings."
Legislative analyst Mac Taylor agrees with Blecha. Should any savings be insufficient to help universities reach their 10 percent share by 2014-15, the legislature would be required to apply funds going to other state departments and possibly new tax revenues. In a policy brief evaluating Schwarzenegger's plan, Taylor wrote that constraining the state's ability to allocate funding where it is most needed could put a larger financial strain on those areas--such as social services, health care and infrastructure.
"Californians, since Proposition 13, seem to think they can constantly cut taxes and maintain the quality of our institutions," Blecha said. "That's a myth and no state official has been willing to call it for what it is."
The amendment would require that any savings achieved in corrections spending to be used to augment spending on the CSU and UC systems beginning in 2011-12. But it is unclear that this money would make higher education more accessible. The plan does not factor in student fees or include community colleges.
Many believe that there are other ways to help higher education funding. "There are ways around it - not adding money, but controlling the budget," said Mike Prisco, 25, a Humanities major at SF State. "There are many administrative jobs that get paid a lot. I know that the president here is getting paid half a million - who needs that much money?"
On the other hand, capping spending on state prisons could be just as harmful. According to Taylor, the plan does not take the prison system's cost pressures into account. Prison costs go up when there are more inmates, which can depend on sentencing.
The state can clean up its expenditures on corrections facilities by reducing the prison population, said Elizabeth Brown, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at SF State. "It can let out first-time violent offenders, repeal the three strikes law, and increase employment opportunities," she added.
Although spending on higher education and prisons has inverted over the past 30 years, correcting the problem is not as simple as reversing the figures.
"Politics is always a substitute for one set of problems for another," said Casey Robbins, a 19-year-old Theater major at SF State. "We have to strip the rights away from people who need the resources, but that's the American way of life and that's where the problem is."
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