University of California officials are concerned about Gov. Gray Davis’s proposal to slash $118 million in funding for the system, but acknowledge that the university fared relatively well in the context of a nearly $24 billion budget shortfall.
“The proposed reductions are, of course, very disappointing,” said Larry Hershman, UC vice president for budget. “(But) the state is facing an extremely serious budget problem, and we know that the university must play a role in the solution.”
The effect of the proposed cuts on UC Berkeley is unclear, since the reductions affect system-wide programs. But UC spokesman Brad Hayward said Berkeley would be affected if Davis’s plan passes.
“I’m sure every campus will feel the cuts,” Hayward said.
“It’s painful whenever you have to reduce your investment in higher education,” acknowledged Sandy Harrison, spokesman for Davis’s Department of Finance. But he argued that the governor made the best choices available given the need for cuts.
In his initial January budget, when the budget picture looked far better, Davis proposed cuts in some UC programs, but called for an overall hike of more than $40 million in the UC budget next year. His May revision, released Tuesday, proposes a $162 million reduction from the January proposal.
The net loss, said Hayward, would be $118 million, reducing state funding for the UC system from $3.3 billion this year to $3.2 billion next year. State funding accounts for about one-quarter of the UC budget, he said.
Some of the cuts Davis proposed in his May revision include:
• A $32 million, or 10 percent, reduction in state funding for research programs.
• A $28.4 million cut in funding for K-12 outreach programs, which comes on top of a $4.2 million cut proposed in January.
• Over $62 million in cuts to K-12 professional development programs, including a complete elimination of state funding for a series of “professional development institutes.”
• A one-time cut of $29 million from the university’s $150 million budget for equipment, library materials, deferred maintenance and instructional technology.
• A $5.2 million cut, in addition to $4.8 million in reductions earlier this year, to a UC program that establishes high-speed Internet connections in K-12 schools.
The May revision does add $5.4 million to the $63.8 million Davis offered in January to account for projected enrollment growth of 7,700 students system-wide. And for the eighth straight year, the governor’s budget avoids student fee hikes.
“That’s a huge victory,” said Josh Fryday, vice president of external affairs for the UC Berkeley student body, referring to the Davis decision on student fees. Fryday said he will lobby the legislature to abide by the governor’s recommendation.
Hayward said the cuts to K-12 outreach programs, designed to prepare more students for the rigors of the UC system, will reduce state funding by 40 percent. But the spin-off effects could be far worse, he warned.
According to Hayward, private and federal sources of funding, which make up about half the budget for the outreach programs, often come in the form of matching grants. If the state funding disappears, he said, the other sources will dry up as well.
“It will be very difficult for these programs to continue without state funding,” he said.
The picture is rosier for the professional development programs, Hayward said. The Davis administration is counting on millions in federal funds, recently approved through President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, to make up for the proposed cuts.
But Sana Nagar, fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises the state legislature, said there are restrictions on the federal dollars that could prevent the Davis plan from coming to fruition. The money can only be used to supplement state funding not replace it altogether, as the governor proposes for the UC-run professional development institutes, she said.
“This could be a problem if it’s seen by the feds as a substitution,” she said.
Still, the legislature may be able to get around federal restrictions if it structures the cuts properly, Nagar said.
The Davis proposal would give UC the authority to determine where, exactly, it would make cuts in its research budget. But Hayward said the university will not even contemplate the issue until the legislature considers the Davis proposal and actually passes a budget.
In the coming weeks UC officials “will make the best possible case for the university,” Hayward said, seeking to avoid cuts.
But, given that health and human services and county governments took far more substantial hits in the Davis proposal, the chances for significant restoration of UC funding seem slim.
Hans Hemann, legislative director for State Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, said Aroner is concerned about the UC cuts but will have to prioritize areas for savings.
“In comparison to what they did to health and human services, these cuts are minor in the overall scheme of things,” he said.