Speculations abound as to why the CSU Board of Trustees has decided to postpone the annual budget proposal to the state until after the Nov. 7 election, but the CSU assures that it is in no way to influence the upcoming election.
On Oct. 5, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez sent a letter to the California State University Board of Trustees, specifically Ms. Roberta Achtenberg, implying that the board deliberately postponed a late October meeting in order to influence the upcoming election.
“The people of California deserve to have all the issues put in front of them in advance of an election,” Nunez wrote. “A significant increase in student fees at the CSU is certainly an issue of public policy that ought to be put before voters in advance of the election.”
According to the CSU Web site, the Trustees had been scheduled to meet on Oct. 26 to review the budget for 2007-08 since May 2005. The board decided in July to postpone the scheduled meeting.
“Like 30 million Californians are really going to decide the gubernatorial race based on us,” said Patrick Lenz, Assistant Vice Chancellor in Budget Development, about the allegations made by Nunez.
According to Lenz, the reasons for postponing the budget meeting were for sound fiscal reasons only.
“The state has been on a roller coaster ride this past fiscal year,” Lenz said. “We don’t know where the administration or the legislation stands this year. Another month and we’ll have a better idea of the fiscal condition.”
According to Dennis Dillon, Vice President of Representation of the California State University Employees Union, there have been compacts between the governor and the CSU for years. The problem is there is never enough money, Dillon said.
The compact is a six-year agreement from 2005-2006 to 2010-2011 which promises to fund at least a 2.5 percent annual enrollment growth and a 4 percent minimum General Fund increase in 2007-08 through the end of the agreement. The General Fund increase applies to basic needs like salary increases, health benefits, maintenance and inflation. For 2008-09 through 2010-11, the compact provides an additional 1 percent for core academic needs.
Lenz wrote in the CSU Business and Finance News in July 2006, “While the budget begins to address the state’s ongoing structural deficit it would appear the state General Fund may be short nearly $3.3 billion in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.”
According to Nunez’s letter, this meeting in past years has decided student fee increases. He wrote that on Oct. 27, 2005, the Trustees voted to increase student fees by 8 percent in a 13 to 1 vote. And similarly, in 2004, the Trustees met and approved student fee increases on Oct. 28. The Trustees also prepared their CSU budget proposal that went to the Department of Finance in preparation for Schwarzenegger’s presentation of his state budget proposal the following January of each year.
An e-mailed press release from Paul Browning, CSU Media Relations Specialist, said there was no student fee increase for this academic year.
The Jan. 10, 2006 press release states, “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed $215 million in new revenue for the California State University, fully funding the trustees request for 2006-2007 based on the Higher Education Compact, and providing enough funds to eliminate student fee increases for fall 2006.”