Regents to discuss budget at Wednesday meeting with California college heads

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The UC Board of Regents will discuss Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for 2014-15 and how it stacks up with UC needs during its first meeting of the year this week.

On Wednesday, Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz will update the regents on Brown’s budget, including the $120.9 million gap between proposed state funding and the amount of money UC President Janet Napolitano asked for. The meeting, which will convene at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, will span Wednesday and Thursday and cover topics from employee contracts to research goals.

The university’s preliminary budget, passed by the UC Board of Regents at its November meeting, planned for almost double the 5 percent increase the university will actually receive with Brown’s budget. Napolitano said the planned 5 percent increase did not do enough to support the university.

At the November meeting, Brown told the regents the university should not expect additional funding, handing them what he called “a reality sandwich.”

Though the state budget must be revised and passed by the Legislature — and the UC budget then updated to reflect this change as well as federal funding recently scrambled by the sequester — it is still unlikely the university will receive the full amount it asked for in November.

On Wednesday, the regents will also discuss the federal budget for 2014-15. In the coming months, the regents will have to make their case to the federal government for more robust funding.

The federal sequester and budget instability have already led to a $345 million drop in federal research awards for 2012-13, roughly 12 percent less than the amount awarded in 2011-12, according to the meeting agenda.

The federal budget agreement passed by Congress in December increases discretionary spending by $63 billion over the next two years and increases the total federal budget from $967 billion to $1.014 trillion. This means the sequester cuts to student grants and research should disappear in part. The current agreement, however, leaves certain programs, such as medical research and graduate medical education, curtailed despite protest from the UC system.

The meeting will also feature a discussion between the heads of the UC, CSU and California Community College systems. The regents, Napolitano, CSU Chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris will discuss how to improve and modernize California’s higher education system.

The regents will also discuss research coming out of national labs, including new high-power batteries and a potential vaccine for HIV. The board will also hear an update on UC Berkeley’s $25 million nuclear nonproliferation program to lead the training and education of nuclear security experts.

The meeting will also cover the developing UC online education program as well as several personnel and contract changes.

Contact Daniel Tutt at [email protected].