State Budget Update - Feb. 9, 2011
February 9, 2011
We are now nearly halfway through the anticipated budgetary sprint, and the "deal" that will solve the state's $25 billion shortfall is still not clear. While most Republicans we talk to privately say "the votes will be there" to place temporary taxes on the ballot, the words are frequently followed with "but don't count on my vote." Meanwhile, Democrats don't want to cast their votes for cuts to their cherished programs until they are confident that a package deal will be reached.
So, where are we at?
The budget subcommittees are wrapping up their work this week. Unlike "normal" budget years, the subcommittees are not expected to vote on cuts, instead shifting the decision to larger committees where more legislators can share the burden of the awful votes. With the new "top two" primary system taking statewide effect next year, your enemy may not be the other political party, but a member of your own caucus.
Our sources expect that a deal to place the governor's balanced approach on the ballot to emerge sometime mid-March. This would allow for a June 7 election to consider the extension of the temporary tax hikes as they existed December 31, 2010.
The community college budget will likely look similar to the governor's proposal, although it would be a simple $290 million net reduction to the general apportionment as a "workload reduction." We will continue to have a statewide priority for transfer, basic skills, and career-technical education, and districts might be expected to provide specific reporting on how each district is managing enrollment.
We believe we have successfully defeated the "census change" proposal as well as some of the bright line rules ("100 units and you're out"). However, let's face it, we are rationing our community colleges, and we haven't always been the best at ensuring that first-time students get one of the cherished spots in our colleges. As I recently told you, virtually all of our lost students in 2009-10 were either first-time students or Californians who were returning after a period of time, likely because they were unemployed.
While course scrutinization and registration priorities are very difficult issues and quick "solutions" could easily throw our most educationally and economically disadvantaged populations udner the bus, let's also acknowledge that "first come, first served" doesn't make sense when you are rationing an important public service.
We will keep fighting to ensure that you have the flexibility to adapt your college's curriculum and registration systems to meet the needs of your community. Meanwhile, let's acknowledge that we have been anything but perfect, and that this isn't business as usual.
I know it's painful to say "no" to those that believe our colleges must be all things to all people. Nevertheless, Theresa Tena (Director, Fiscal Policy) and I were lobbying in the Capitol last Thursday when the Capitol was full of severely developmentally disabled Californians. Let's face it. We do amazing things in our colleges, but the magnitude of our cuts must be put into perspective with the cuts that intervene with an individual's ability to eat, breathe, and live.
We will drop from a $6.3 billion system to a $6 billion or $5.8 billion or $5.5 billion system. That'll be up to the voters, and The League will aggressively make the impact on community colleges clear. The cuts will be painful, and we may say goodbye to some of our dear friends. Nevertheless, we will be okay. We will continue to be the largest higher education system in the country, and your work at our colleges will continue to open doors of opportunity for people like me.
Thank you for what you do.
Community College League of California
2017 O Street, Sacramento, California 95811
916.444.8641 . www.ccleague.org