CA Legislature Must Stop Bullying UC

As the State Legislature holds a hearing today about the University of California, consider the following:

UC will collect $3.5 billion from the state this year, just six percent more than a decade ago. Since 2010, state spending on UC is up just two-thirds of the growth rate of state revenues and just a fraction of the 76%, 58% and 32% increases in state spending on pensions, healthcare and corrections over that period. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, UC just underwent its eighth state audit in recent years. Sound fair? It gets worse:

  • $3.5 billion is less than half of the compensation and benefits the state spends on fewer than 60,000 corrections employees. Yet the state isn’t auditing that spending. In fact, the state legislature granted those employees three salary increases since 2010.
  • State spending in favor of healthcare businesses has more than doubled since 2010 but emergency room visits are up and there’s little evidence health outcomes have improved. Yet the state isn’t auditing that spending.
  • The share of K-12 budgets devoted to pensions continues to explode and crowd out spending on classrooms. Yet the state isn’t auditing that spending.

It’s all about power. Public employee unions and healthcare enterprises actively prowl the halls of the State Capitol. UC alumni and faculty do not.

Abysmal state treatment of UC will continue until UC alumni and faculty get politically active and pay close attention to how state legislators vote.

UC Berkeley faculty might want to start by examining the voting records of the two state legislators who represent Berkeley: State Senator Nancy Skinner and State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. As a start, they should check their votes for compensation increases for Corrections employees, including one year in which the legislature cut spending on UC. Just the latest compensation increase will cost the General Fund — the source of UC’s funding — an additional $600 million per year. That’s nearly twice the total amount per average UC campus per year.

UC doesn’t always do everything right and can always improve but state spending on UC is a tiny fraction of state spending on pensions, healthcare and Corrections. The legislature needs to act fairly. UC alumni and faculty should pay attention.

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