Gov. Jerry Brown employed a more hands-on role in the inner workings of the Cal State University as he stirred the pot on a number of agenda items in an unusual appearance at the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach Tuesday.
Brown, who has the honorary right to vote as an ex officio member of the CSU Board of Trustees and the University of California Board of Regents, flexed his political influence over the proceedings to ensure that the funds raised by Proposition 30 will be used appropriately.
“That’s why I’m here today,” Brown said. “I want to send a signal that we’re not finished. There’s some hard work up ahead and I’m going to be taking my responsibility as chief executive very seriously.”
Proposition 30, a bill passed Nov. 6 that is set to raise more than $6 billion, will fund K-12 schools and community colleges first, with public universities and other social programs taking what remains.
The money comes from an increase in personal income taxes for earners who make more than $250,000 for the next seven years and bumped sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years. The tax law has fended off automatic “trigger cuts” that officials say would have devastated the California public education system if the proposition had not passed.
Brown emphasized the need to demonstrate to Californians that Proposition 30’s passage will not only deliver badly needed financial relief for the largest public university system in the country, but that the money will be well spent.
“That’s going to take discipline and difficult decisions,“ Brown said. “As the person who pushed Proposition 30, I also have to push the kind of discipline and careful spending that will satisfy voter expectation.”
Although the passage of Proposition 30 promises a degree of alleviation for public school students, its provisions will expire in seven years.
Until then, Brown assured that Proposition 30’s capital would be enough to hold the system over until the economy improves, and that he is looking into any feasible means to get Californians to share the burden of funding public education without raising taxes.
“That’s seven years from now… Don’t worry about it,” Brown said. “People say, ‘Well, it’s only temporary,’ (but) we have some temporary costs like paying down borrowing costs, paying down deferrals… as we pay down those borrowing costs and as we make government as efficient as possible and get economic growth, then we should be able to handle our spending responsibilities without seeking new taxes.”
Although Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Linscheid directed Tuesday’s meeting, Brown consistently showed his interest in CSU budget matters by questioning the cost of several projects.
In a closed meeting before the main session, a proposed fee increase was rejected by Brown and other trustees who said the CSU should take more time to evaluate its financial position before scaring students with talk of future tuition hikes.
“The proposal to modify the current undergraduate fee structure was part of the agenda for today’s Board of Trustees meeting and will now be reviewed at a later date after Trustees gather additional information and input from stakeholders,” the CSU said in a statement.
Brown said he thought the entire proposal was premature to suggest only a week after Proposition 30 passed by a 700,000-vote margin.
“I thought that after the election is not a time to be raising fees for tuition,” Brown said. “I think there will be alternative ways to keep the objectives of getting students to be more diligent and graduate on time, to repeat fewer courses and otherwise, make their years as effective as possible.”
Still to be decided Wednesday is the support budget for the 2013-2014 academic year, where the board will approve the allocation of funds suggested by the committee on finance.
“I went around the state saying, ‘No tuition (hikes) if we pass Prop 30,” Brown said. “I didn’t say for how long, but I’ve certainly sent a message: We want to hold down costs to students.”