Brown’s state budget could cut $200 million from UC this year

The University of California faces a $200 million state funding cut this year if voters do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases in November, according to Brown’s January budget plan announced Thursday.

Brown anticipates that California will face a $9.2 billion deficit through June 2013 in the state’s general fund. In order to help mitigate the deficit, he hopes to raise the sales tax and certain income taxes through putting a nearly $7 billion ballot initiative before voters.

Should the November ballot initiative fail, the plan’s $200 million cut to the UC would follow a year in which the system saw its budget hammered by $750 million in state budget cuts. But the plan provides an ongoing $90 million General Fund increase to the UC for base operating costs — funding which the plan states could be used for retirement program contributions.

Patrick Lenz, the university’s vice president for budget and capital resources, lauded the operating cost increase in a statement Thursday.

“We applaud the governor’s willingness to grant UC leadership maximum flexibility in navigating these fiscal times,” Lenz said in the statement. “The administration’s focus on protecting higher education from further budget reductions is a welcome relief, and the governor’s stated desire for a long-term state investment is encouraging.”

Lenz said in the statement that the university will continue to use administrative efficiencies to cut down on costs and is currently seeking alternate sources of revenue to bolster its income. He added that the university intends to work with Brown and the state legislature on developing a long-term plan “that would give the university much-needed financial stability.”

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UC Student Association President Claudia Magana said in a statement that despite the funding increase, higher education in California remains “grossly underfunded” and the governor’s plan does not go far enough to fund the state’s needs.

“The state immediately needs more revenue to ensure that we do not balance the budget on students and the poor,” Magana said. “This budget only further reinforces the need for greater taxes on big businesses and the wealthiest Californians to help restore our future.”

In the past, the university has relied on large tuition increases to offset the impact of cuts from the state.

But UC spokesperson Steve Montiel said in an email that it is “too early to speculate” whether the university would see tuition increases should the cuts occur.

Though Brown’s office had originally intended to release the budget Jan. 10, he held a press conference Thursday after the budget was erroneously published on the Department of Finance’s website, according to major media outlets.

“I’m not saying (the budget plan) is perfect, I’m just saying this is the best that our finance department and myself could come up with,” Brown said at the press conference.

The plan also proposes that both the UC and California State University — which would also be cut $200 million under the plan if voters do not approve the ballot initiative to raise taxes — begin budgeting for capital improvement projects as part of their overall fiscal plans. State appropriations for such projects were formerly budgeted and adjusted for separately.

Additionally, various budgetary set-asides for specific UC programs and purposes such as AIDS research and the Summer School for Mathematics and Sciences are removed in Brown’s budget plan.

The plan calls for $4.2 billion in base-level state cuts, including reductions in welfare and child care services. If voters reject the tax increases, state K-12 schools and community colleges would be cut $4.8 billion.

“I can tell you that the best thinking from the executive branch is this budget is a good road map to get us through a solid fiscal program we can live with,” Brown said. “If there’s a better way to do it, I’m totally open to it.”

Alisha Azevedo of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

J.D. Morris is the university news editor.