Ambiguity: Budget’s Middle Name
Student Fees Advisory Committee Chair Aaron Tso spoke at the Cross Cultural Center this past Thursday on his perspective of the past, present and future of the UC and the budget that has been proposed for the state.
Governor Brown’s budget consists of about $12.5 billion in cuts, which translates to a $500-million dollar cut to the UC system in addition to $500 million dollars taken from CSUs and $400 million snatched from the community colleges of California.
To fill a $28-billion dollar deficit, the governor is planning on putting a tax revenue initiative on the ballot to raise about $13 billion dollars. If this tax revenue does not receive a proper vote, it will mean more cuts for higher education.
Despite this grim and somewhat disheartening forecast, third-year political science major Tso remained upbeat during his presentation.
“These cuts could mean better efficiency,” Tso said. “With every bad thing comes a good one; perhaps with the cuts it will allow people to take on new tasks and maximize their own personal work potential.”
According to Tso, President Yudof has said he does not want to impose further fee increases but will not comment as he might be forced to.
Fees are planned to increase by 8 percent next year, but Yudof claims everything is still up in the air.
There are a multitude of ideas being bounced around in desperate efforts to not have to resort to closing a campus or making more serious cuts.
One such suggestion has been to separate the campuses by funds. This means that all numbers will be on each individual campus and money will be generated through new revenue sources including increased alumni support.
The danger of this is a step away from the mission of the University of California and into the privatization of the UC.
Moreover, this will leave campuses such as UC Merced, Riverside and UCSF hard-pressed for money as they have lower enrollment rates and alumni numbers.
A feeling of precarious uncertainty has settled around the topic of fee increases, and Tso makes no bones to cover this up.
“Programs are going to be cut, people are going to be cut, but we are all affected by this,” Tso said. “In a way, it’s not just being put on us, it’s not just the undergrads that are being affected. Still, we don’t know what is going to happen in the near future. A lot rests on the tax revenue.”
This revenue, if it wins with a two-thirds vote, will keep taxes high, thus generating more money to be put toward education. If it fails, the $12-billion dollar hole could lead to a $500-million dollar further cut to higher education. This could, under the worst case scenario, also lead to an entire campus being removed from the UC system. Tso admits that it will be difficult to pass, and therefore adds to the ambiguity of the next couple of years.
“I think the next one or two years will be no good because of the tax revenue; there is good and bad to it passing and not passing,” Tso said.
Despite the hesitancy and relative guesswork, Tso claims that the budget will be balanced in five years.
“We’re trying to keep in better contact with the regents,” Tso said, “in the hopes that this will contribute to a better conversation about the budget.”
The most important thing to do at this point, he claims, is to get involved.
“Go on lobby visits to district members, work for the tax revenue legislation to get on the ballots and just get out there to do what you can for your university,” Tso said.