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With California’s fiscal house in complete disarray and facing an almost $28 billion shortfall over the next 18 months, a sound and logical person might assume that California lawmakers have their hands full as they attempt to deal with the problems created by years of “smoke and mirror” budgets, debt shifting, and massive borrowing. However, as reported today by the Los Angeles Times, sound and logic have been swept away by lawmakers attempting to gain control over the budgets of the University of California, and the California State University systems.
Angered by increases to fees and tuition, ironically created by their own cuts, California lawmakers are now proposing legislation that includes limiting student fees, freezing compensation, and increasing budget transparency. The Great Hypocrite himself, Assembly-speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) is now calling for full transparency in the budget process, apparently ignoring the now somewhat famous method in which he tackled California’s latest budget by meeting with key lawmakers late in the night, behind closed doors, and refusing to discuss or reveal the outcome of those meetings with his own Assembly-members, let alone the media, and public at-large. It was only after an agreement had been reached that the details were made public, revealing another “smoke and mirrors” budget created with extremely optimistic revenue forecasts (now proven to be so optimistic that they are, in fact, a key cause of the $28 billion shortfall), debt shifting, and billion dollar borrowing. Perhaps Assembly-speaker Perez should take a cue, and insert a little transparency into his OWN budget before trying to force it onto another system.
In another twist of hypocrisy, California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Fransisco) is quoted by the Times as saying “all we know is we dump money in and they come out short.” I suppose the upside is that Senator Yee now knows what it feels like to be a taxpayer in California; continuing to dump money in only to see a multi-billion dollar shortfall! Senator Yee’s great resolution is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit pay hikes for university administrators in “bad budget years”. Maybe Senator Yee should apply the same logic in his OWN work and begin wondering where all the tax dollars go that are simply “dumped in” to the system with nothing to show for it?
It should come as no surprise that unions representing employees at the various universities are in favor of the lawmaker’s insurgency, as this can only benefit them. With universities slashing budgets with each passing year, eventually, the discussion will have to focus on employee pensions, benefits, and pay. With state lawmakers in their pockets, the unions will have the ability to better control any possible action taken against their members.
At the end of the day, California lawmakers have absolutely no business sticking their noses into the budgets of the public university systems, while they themselves are facing a massive, unprecedented shortfall themselves. After all, the university system relies heavily on the budgets passed by lawmakers, and when a shortfall is created by the lawmakers, the universities must pick up the slack somewhere.