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Gov. Brown Orders $1 Billion In Mid-Year Cuts

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Education, low, middle income families biggest losers

By BVN Staff –

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday ordered $1 billion in mid-year "trigger" cuts to California’s budget that will result in pain for students who rely on school buses to get to class, mothers who depend on child care subsidies to keep working and support programs for the developmentally disabled.

Among the cuts, school bus service is eliminated saving the state $248 million. The order cuts $100 million each to the University of California, California State University.

Reductions would be made for library grants and prisons, among other programs.

The announcement was not surprising and could have been worse. The state’s legislative analyst had predicted revenues would fall $3.7 billion below forecast.

Still the automatic midyear reductions sparked outcry from education and "safety net" advocates and invited lawsuits from school districts.

School advocates warned that an estimated 1 million students— many of them with special needs or from low-income and rural areas —will be affected by the loss of home-to-school transportation funding. In addition, school districts will lose another $79.6 million under the trigger cuts.

But the deepest impact will be at community colleges where the cuts will cost $102 million for a total loss of $502 million from the system's $5.9 billion budget.

California colleges and universities are at a "breaking point" now said Chancellor Jack Scott, of the community college system predicting more crowded classrooms and more personnel layoffs.

At the same time community col leges expect to make back about $100 million by charging students most of whom are low income more to attend. Tuition will rise to $46 dollars a unit next semester ($1,380) a year for a full time student taking 50 units up from $36 dollars a unit ($1,080).

Last year it cost $26 dollars a unit or $708 a year for a full load of classes that's a 57 percent increase since last spring.

The cuts mean a $4 million loss to Cal State San Bernardino.

Albert Karnig, Cal State SB president said cuts to higher education will mean serving fewer students less effectively.

"There are plenty of options none of which are pretty including increasing class size and offering fewer instructional faculty."

The University of California is charging students 17 percent more in tuition and fees than it did a year ago. On far better footing the Regents are planning no mid-year tuition increase and are not asking campuses to take additional austerity measures. The system will offset the $100 million cut with money it over contributed for healthcare.

While public college and university officials brace for less money, K-12 officials express some level of relief. Still, with Brown poised to announce further trigger cuts as part of his 2012- 2013 budget proposal on Jan. 10, officials remain cautious.

Brown, a Democrat, said that the state’s revenues will fall about $2.2 billion below the $88.4 billion he and state lawmakers had hoped for when they passed the budget last summer.

Brown said he saw no choice but to demonstrate fiscal discipline and warned that a new and more devastating round of reductions will hit next year unless his tax proposal is implemented.

"None of this is pleasant but the alternative is to do what we've done for so many years and that is to just borrow, obfuscate and delay," Brown said in a news conference at the state Capitol. "And I don't want to do that."

Citing a polarized political atmosphere in California and across the nation that he says has made compromising with Republicans impossible, Brown said he saw no other path toward fiscal order than to go directly to California's voters and give them a choice between higher taxes and maintaining schools, universities, public safety and social services. "They should have a chance to vote on it," said Brown. "The people of California are saying they don't want cuts but also expressing reservations about taxes. So that's the public dissidence and problem."

He warned of further cuts when he releases his proposed 2012-13 budget in January unless voters support higher taxes.

Republicans, who blocked Brown's proposal earlier this year to place a question on taxes before voters, say it didn't have to be this way and accused the governor of using the mid-year cuts to his advantage as he pushes his tax proposal. They continue to advocate for reforms to the public pension system, regulations and a state spending cap.

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