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CSU: Higher fees, fewer students if tax hike fails

10:55 AM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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In what's no doubt the first of many warnings about the high stakes of Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax initiative, Cal State University officials say that voter rejection of Proposition 30 could trigger higher tuition or fewer students.

CSU trustees will hear about their options at Tuesday's board meeting in Long Beach.  But the university system's finance officials told reporters Monday morning that all of the options look bad if Prop 30 -- the governor's temporary income and sales tax increase -- fails on November 6.  They also say the CSU system needs to take preemptive action, just in case.

"We don't have the luxury of just sitting back and waiting to see what happens in November," said Robert Turnage, CSU's top budget analyst.

Staff have come up with two scenarios for trustees to begin pondering this week, and on which to take action at their meeting in September.

The first scenario, says Turnage, is to "preserve access" to a CSU education for as many students as possible by a $150 per student fee increase in spring 2013 and a 2.5-percent pay cut for university workers.

The second option, described as  a way to "preserve price" promises already made to students and their families, would be to reduce enrollment by some 6,000 students across the CSU 23 campus system, lay off 750 university employees systemwide, and make a 5.25-percent cut in worker pay.

CSU trustees will also be asked to consider a 9 percent tuition and fees increase for out-of-state and international students.

Prop 30's taxes were written into last month's state budget deal, along with an automatic $250 million cut to the CSU budget should those taxes be rejected by voters.  The University of California system would also lose $250 million.  California's community college system would lose $338.6 million.

With the state budget's automatic 'trigger' cuts so heavily weighted towards education (much bigger cuts would be made to K-12 schools), expect much of the political debate to focus on whether such warnings are fair game.  Critics of the budget, mainly GOP legislators, argued that there were other ways to structure the spending plan.

Those criticisms, though, are now largely beside the point... unless Prop 30 is defeated and legislators quickly convene in Sacramento to craft a plan B, something legislative leaders have suggested isn't in the cards.

(See page 15 of this PDF handout from tomorrow's trustees meeting for more on the CSU proposals being bandied about.)

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