Brown, state Republican leaders square off on higher education funding proposals

Related Posts

State Republicans are proposing a plan to avoid possible cuts to public education through budget solutions instead of the tax initiative proposed by  Gov. Jerry Brown.

Should Brown’s tax initiative fail to pass in November, the UC and CSU systems would suffer trigger cuts of $200 million each, according to Brown’s January budget plan. In a Tuesday letter to student leaders, Republican legislators presented an alternative “Roadmap to Protect Classrooms and Taxpayers” that seeks to prevent those and other potential cuts to education without raising taxes.

Brown’s tax initiative is expected to raise $6 billion through an increase of a quarter cent to the state sales tax along with a higher income tax for those making more than $250,000 a year. The Republican plan aims to free up $4.4 billion in state funds.

Under the Republican plan, education funding would come from sources like Facebook’s upcoming sale of stock, increased tax revenues as a result of the economic recovery, halting the development of new government programs and streamlining existing ones. The roadmap dedicates all new tax revenue to halt education trigger cuts and seeks to reallocate certain pots of discretionary spending from existing government programs — such as mental health and other social programs. It is not yet clear which programs may be subject to these funding changes.

William Bird, spokesperson for State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said Republicans are still deciding how to model their plan based on past budget actions.

A February Legislative Analyst’s Office report states that state higher education general fund support has declined by 21 percent since 2007-08, and Brown’s proposal would increase its core funding by 1.2 percent. However, Brown’s proposal would also decrease funding for the California Student Aid Commission by 61.7 percent. This decrease includes measures to raise GPA requirements for Cal Grant eligibility, which will affect about 26,600 students.

Spokespersons from Brown’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

At the March UC Board of Regents meeting, UC President Mark Yudof said he will recommend that the board endorse Brown’s tax initiative in a future meeting. However, several regents remained wary of its impacts and said more negotiation with legislators would need to take place.

On Saturday and Sunday, the UC Student Association held a board meeting at UC Irvine to discuss the two initiatives and consider endorsing Brown’s proposal, according to Darius Kemp, the association’s communications and organizing director. The systemwide Academic Senate has already voted to urge the regents to endorse plans that prioritize higher education funding.