Nonpartisan Report Questions Schwarzenegger's Proposed Amendment

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A report published Tuesday by the state Legislative Analyst Office urges the California Legislature to reject a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing 10 percent of the state's budget for higher education, calling it an "unnecessary, ill-conceived measure that would do serious harm to the budget process."

The office, which provides nonpartisan fiscal and policy advice for the legislature, recommends the proposal be rejected because the amendment would not mandate how the funds would specifically be spent on higher education nor allow the state flexibility when constructing a budget.

"Locking up a tenth of the state budget on UC and CSU, in combination with similar funding guarantees already in place, would constrain spending choices for over half of the budget," the report reads. "This could make it more difficult for the legislature to shift funding to cover new cost demands in other areas that may be a legislative priority, such as social services, health care, the judiciary or infrastructure."

The report questions the necessity of a constitutional amendment, saying that lawmakers have the power to prioritize funding for higher education without an amendment.

The office also criticizes the proposal for not taking into account student fee increases which have increased university revenue.

But UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz said that student fee increases are not a substitute for state funding.

"(The report) provides hard and clear evidence of what has been the Sacramento approach to higher education over the past two decades: stick students and their parents with what essentially is a user's tax in order to compensate for a declining commitment to higher education," Lenz said in a statement.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed the amendment during his Jan. 6 State of the State address as part of a larger effort to prioritize state funding for higher education.

The amendment would mandate that at least 10 percent of the state's general fund be spent on higher education while no more than 7 percent be spent on the state corrections system. The amendment would require the approval of two-thirds of both houses in the state Legislature before it could go before voters.

Beyond the questions of funding the university the report faults the governor for pitting higher education and the states' corrections systems directly against one another in a fight for funding.

"The administrations proposal implicitly suggests there is a linkage of crucial budgetary significance between these two specific program areas, this is not however what budgeting is about," the report reads.


Javier Panzar covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected]

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