UCs, CSUs Carry Cost of Record Budget Impasse

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The California state Legislature met Thursday to vote on a budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, hoping to end the state's record 99-day period without an official financial plan.

The budget session began at 11 a.m. - two hours later than originally scheduled and the first in a series of delays - but as of press time SB 870, the main budget bill in the Senate, was still three votes short of passing by a two-thirds majority, though it was on call throughout the day.

"We expect the process to end either late this evening or early tomorrow," said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state Department of Finance. "The Senate leaders are committed to getting it passed. It may take time to get there, but we fully anticipate by the end of the evening the required amount of votes to pass."

Since July 1, the lack of a budget has immobilized traditional funding methods for several state institutions. Many California students have already experienced repercussions as the California Student Aid Commission, responsible for distributing Cal Grants to thousands of UC and CSU students, was unable to distribute grants in the beginning of the school year.

UCs and CSUs have taken out loans and used cash reserves to fund Cal Grants, but the absence of a concrete budget continues to stall university budget and enrollment plans, according to Erik Fallis, spokesperson for the CSU system.

"An adopted state budget will help us go a long way in planning what we are doing for the rest of the year, especially for the spring quarter," Fallis said.

Fallis also said the CSU has decided to take in up to 30,000 new students in the spring, using $106 million in federal stimulus money. If passed, the state budget would provide an additional $199 million to both CSU and UC systems to back-fill last year's cuts.

But for now, Fallis said the CSU system is making decisions without the guarantee of a budget.

"One of the challenges is that our calendar doesn't line up with the state's budget process or with what goes on in budget negotiations," he said. "We have to make decisions now."

According to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, $315 million from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal combined with $65.4 million in additional funding for enrollment growth and annuitant health costs, $75 million from debt restructuring and the money from fee increases still leave a budget gap of $237 million for the year 2010-11.

"The UC has been carrying the cost of students who are not being funded by the state," he said. "We have a compact with the government that promises students will be funded by the state and the state has fiscal problems. That's why state funding isn't here and the money has to be made up some way."


Contact Kate Lyons at [email protected]

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