What happened over summer: state budget, tax extensions and tuition hikes

Less than two months before fall semester began, the CSU board of trustees voted to raise tuition by 12 percent after legislators refused to hold a special election asking Californians to extend current tax levels.

“If we had simply maintained the tax rate at where we were last year, we would have avoided the additional $150 million cut,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman.

In the July 12 vote, which passed 13-2, Fallis said the board of trustees acted quickly to avoid the risk of affecting the value of students’ education.

“We had just cut $400 million from programs and services,” Fallis said. “We don’t want to go down a road where we sacrifice quality.”

Tuition for fall semester was raised twice over the last several months, creating a 22 percent increase inspired by the $650 million cut to the CSU.

An initial $500 million reduction in state support was a best case scenario in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposed in January, according to the CSUN Campus Budget News website.

Meant as an effort to pay off California’s anticipated $28 billion deficit at the time, the budget prompted a 10 percent increase in tuition for fall. The increase would account for about $100 million, or 20 percent, of the total $500 million cut.

The remaining $400 million came from reductions to enrollment, programs and operations, including a 14 percent cut in funding from the Chancellor’s Office, according to the CSU Budget Central website.

In order for the reduction to stay at $500 million, Brown was expecting state legislators to agree on a special summer election to extend taxes, which were raised by one percent under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Brown needed at least least two-thirds cooperation among state legislators to make the election official.

“I am, once again, calling on Republicans to allow the people of California to vote on tax extensions for a balanced budget and significant reforms,” Brown said in a statement released in June.

Only two Republican yes votes were needed but lawmakers did not agree to hold a special election for tax extensions.

CSUN professor of political science Tom Hogen-Esch watched as Democrats, the majority party in the capitol, tried to meet Republicans halfway concerning the budget, and Republicans refused to cooperate.

“One side is wiling to compromise and one side isn’t,” Hogen-Esch said. “The minority can just sit back and obstruct the majority.”