State budget secures key funding increases for UC, CSU

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Protesters, numbering in the thousands, gather in front of the Capitol building in Sacramento in a rally earlier this year to advocate for higher education.

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The state legislature has included a tuition freeze in the $142.6 billion budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday, which means there will be no immediate tuition increases for students in the UC and CSU systems for the 2012-2013 school year.

The budget is largely contingent on a November ballot initiative — the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act — that Californians will vote on to decide whether to increase the state’s sales taxes, ultimately creating tax brackets that would introducing higher tax rates for high income earners in the state. The initiative would raise income taxes by up to 3 percent on the wealthiest Californians for seven years.

If the initiative passes, UC and CSU would receive $125 million each. If it fails, a series of cuts would be triggered which would translate to potential tuition increases to both systems.

“My revenue proposal is fair and temporary,” Brown said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “Our state budget problem was built up over a decade, and it won’t be fixed overnight. These temporary increases will ensure funding for our schools until the economy improves.”

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein confirmed Wednesday that UC President Mark Yudof would not recommend tuition increases at the July UC Board of Regents meeting due to the budget passage, but she said the regents retain the ability to turn down the buyout and raise tuition if they choose.

Yudof released a statement Thursday in which he said he intends to recommend to the regents that the current 2011-12 tuition levels remain the same for the upcoming school year.

“We would have preferred that state funds for a tuition buy-out begin with the coming budget year of 2012-13 rather than the following year. We will have to institute some extraordinary, one-time-only measures to balance our budget without a fee increase in the bridging year,” Yudof said in the statement. “Nonetheless, we are determined to find a way to get it done. All of this, of course, is contingent on the passage of the governor’s temporary tax revenue measure this fall.”

Yudof also said in the statement that UC students, faculty, staff, alumni and regents played a crucial role in persuading the state to increase funding for public higher education and the UC’s cooperation with both the CSU and California Community College communities worked together to protect funding for the Cal Grants financial aid program.

“The final 2012-13 state general fund budget of $2.37 billion represents a 4.2 percent increase over 2011-12. It is also worth noting that the budget includes $90 million to resume state contributions to the UC retirement plan for the first time in more than 20 years,” Yudof said in the statement. “Two years ago, the university put into place aggressive measures for the plan to reach fiscal sustainability, and this state contribution will help make that happen.”

Adelyn Baxter is the news editor.

Staff writer Levon Minassian contributed to this report.