We Afford Excellence?
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As the budget chair for the Health and Human Services Committee,
I see the vast range of needs in California. And I have to say that
looking at the budget and trying to find solutions, I don’t
know that it is in our best interest to have the number of different
encumbrances on the budget that we now have. We have this trend
with different ballot initiatives of minimum guarantees for particular
programs, and it’s getting more and more difficult to balance
the budget. I would want to make sure that education is our top
priority, but I don’t know if we should be caught in this
It’s a difficulty. Set-asides come about through an initiative
process and reflect the desire of the voters. I would somewhat sadly
say that I’m not certain that the voters would want to guarantee
a minimum amount of money to UC because of the way the system is
structured so that only a certain percentage of high school graduates
can qualify to attend. It still seems to many people like a place
that not most people can go.
As legislators, what are
some of the competing demands and pressures that you feel when you’re
making decisions about funding priorities?
There are competing demands in every area of the state budget, whether
that’s K-12 education, health and human services, public safety
or the judiciary. Those are all issues that we need to be concerned
about. Some of those issues, in fact, also impact the University
of California. For example, if we reduce Medi-Cal funding and thereby
reduce funding for UC hospitals, that’s going to place an
additional strain on UC.
We have to approach the budget with a view to equity. I have spoken
with representatives from UC, Cal State and the community colleges,
and one of the big issues is assurance that when they take those
cuts, it’s shared pain. I’m talking about percentage
cuts that should be equal in some way. After all, the missions of
each entity are equally important. You can’t have one without
the other. When it comes to the kind of budget cuts that we’re
looking to propose for the state of California, the three entities
have to work more in collaboration.