The new California governor, Jerry Brown, has just announced a reduction of the UC and CSU budgets by $500 million each for 2011-12, and this time, the cuts will not be replaced by any federal recovery money. While the UC system will probably still show a net increase in revenue, the state cuts will most likely result in another round of layoffs, fee increases, and other austerity measures.
However, there is a big new wrinkle in this process: Brown is asking students and union representatives to help make reductions to the UC budget. Here is the relevant passage from his budget proposal: “A decrease of $500 million in 2011‐12 to reflect necessary funding reductions to help resolve the budget deficit. These reductions are intended to minimize fee and enrollment impacts on students by targeting actions that lower the costs of instruction and administration. The Administration will work with the Office of the President and the Regents, as well as stakeholders (including representatives of students and employees), to determine the specific mix of measures that can best accomplish these objectives.” In other words, for the first time, a governor will try to control the UC budget and attempt to cut unneeded expenses like administrative salaries and athletic subsidies.
Part of this new process was brought on by the attempt of 36 of the highest paid administrators to receive a higher pension. Brown, who has never been a big fan of UC elitism, is going to try to circumvent the university’s autonomous status by tying general funds to specific budget reductions. These moves will also coincide with the state audit of the UC budget, and so we should expect a very defensive posture coming from the Regents and the Office of the President. All stakeholders should start to position themselves to influence this process in a positive way.