Schwarzenegger Reveals Budget Plan

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Facing a projected budget shortfall of $11.2 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special legislative session this morning to propose $4.5 billion in budget cuts and tax proposals to increase state revenues.

Although the shortfall was expected to be closer to $3 billion as of last month, when the governor signed the 2008 Budget Act, a declining economy has significantly increased that projection and forced the state to tackle the severe crisis with new cuts, state officials said.

The governor's plan would remove billions of dollars from education funding and increase the state sales tax from 5 to 6.5 percent for the next three years to increase revenues.

The plan calls for a $2.5 billion drop in funding for the Proposition 98 Guarantee, which ensures minimum funding for K-14 education and community colleges. It would also cut $65.5 million from the UC system and a similar amount from the California State University system.

Last month the UC system took a $33 million cut-including a $5 million cut to UC Berkeley-after the governor released a fiscal order to state agencies to increase state savings.

"We are of course disappointed to be facing another potential budget cut on top of the reductions we are already making this year," said UC President Mark G. Yudof in a press statement. "We believe higher education is crucial to California's ability to grow its way out of this economic downturn, and we ultimately need to be talking about ways to improve investment in our state's human capital."

University spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said previous cuts were distributed proportionately throughout the UC system, and each campus decided which programs and areas to cut from.

For those reductions, Vazquez said, President Yudof encouraged campuses to focus on hiring, consulting services and staff travel, rather than taking directly from instructional programs.

However, the new cuts might make it impossible avoid detracting from instruction, he said.

"If these cuts are approved - these deeper cuts - then it would force campuses to turn to other options, such as ones which would actually affect the quality of the educational experience for students," Vazquez said.

He added that further decreases in funding could result in larger class sizes, fewer course sections and reduced operating hours for campus libraries and other student services.

If approved, the changes will be implemented immediately, rather than during the next round of budget cuts.


Contact Rachel Gross at [email protected]

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