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On heels of passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Brown joins regents

Gov. Jerry Brown told the University of California Board of Regents on Nov. 14 that he hoped to secure more funding for the university but that UC must look for more creative solutions to its budget challenges, given the number of demands on the state.

“I like the university,” Brown said. “But when I go back to Sacramento, there are a whole lot of claimants standing in line.”

Brown serves on the Board of Regents by virtue of his office but rarely attends meetings. His participation Wednesday followed passage of Proposition 30, the tax measure he championed that is expected to raise billions of dollars for education over the next seven years.

Its passage was a major electoral victory for Brown — and spared UC from an automatic $250 million mid-year reduction following four years of declining state support.

A step toward fiscal stability

UC leaders heaped praise on the governor for his leadership, noting it was the first time in years that voters statewide had agreed to raise taxes for education.

“The University of California, for the first time in my four years here, finally has a good shot at attaining a sense of fiscal stability,” President Mark G. Yudof said. “And that stability can make all the difference as we look to both our near- and long-term futures.”

Rather than simply bask in the victory, however, Brown seemed to relish digging into UC’s budget challenges, asking about UC’s administrative efficiencies effort, probing the online education initiative and acknowledging that, while Prop. 30 has vastly improved the state’s budget picture, “fiscal discipline is still the order of the day.”

“I want to take this generous contribution of the people and make a sustainable budget,” Brown said.

His comments came as regents discussed, then approved, a spending plan for fiscal 2013-14 that, if enacted by state lawmakers, would provide for modest enrollment growth of California students. It would also, for the first time in many years, put UC on a path toward hiring more faculty, reducing the faculty-student ratio and re-investing in other quality indicators.

Yudof told the board that he also was hopeful UC could avoid raising undergraduate tuition in fall 2013.

Proposition 30’s effect

Both he and regents’ Chair Sherry Lansing acknowledged that regents would have had a far different discussion had voters not approved Proposition 30, and said it was hard to understate the importance of student support for the initiative.

Along with lobbying and outreach, students held non-partisan voter registration drives and signed up more than 51,000 new UC student voters, Lansing said.

“I’m incredibly proud. It shows what we can do when we all work together — because our work isn’t done. We haven’t solved all our problems, though we’ve certainly helped them,” Lansing said.

Over the past four years, state funds for UC have fallen by nearly one-third, or about $900 million. Under the plan approved Wednesday, UC will ask the state to increase its base appropriation by about 6 percent over current levels.

University officials are also resuming talks with the governor and department of finance over the possibility of a multi-year funding agreement that would provide modest but predictable funding increases over the next few years.

Brown, while not commenting directly on that plan, said state revenues were looking better than they had in years.

“The legislative analyst has said that revenues look robust in the years to come. The state has had a lot of cuts, and now with Prop. 30, we have some revenues. It puts the state in place for very stable budgets for years to come if we are fiscally prudent.”

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