Newsom Proposes Expanded Budget for Higher Education

Governor Gavin Newsom sent his proposed budget, which includes increased spending in higher education, to the California State Legislature on Jan. 10, 2020. The budget, which is expected to be passed later this year, will increase the University of California’s core educational spending ability by $217.7 million.

Newsom’s total budget calls for $36 billion to be allocated toward general higher education spending, with $21.2 billion funded through property taxes and the rest funded through other revenue sources. These funds are distributed to the UC system, the California State University system, the California Community Colleges system, the California Student Aid Commission, and other undefined outlets.

Most notably, the UC system will see an increase of 1.3 percent in total state funds. This is up from the approximately $9.4 billion allocated in the previous fiscal year. Conversely, the CSU system will see a decrease of 1.4 percent in total funds, down from last years’ approximately $8.0 billion allocation.

Alicia Gunawan // UCSD Guardian

According to Andrew Gordon, the associate director of media relations for the UC Office of the President, the proposed $217.7 million increase will go to a variety of different initiatives. Broken down, this includes $169.2 million to support ongoing operational costs and student support services, $25 million to expand enrollment and increase operational support for the UC Riverside School of Medicine, $15 million to expand the UC San Francisco School of Medicine Fresno branch campus in partnership with UC Merced, $3.6 million to support operational costs for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, $3 million for the UC San Diego Center for Public Preparedness multi-campus research initiative, $1.6 million for graduate medical education grants, and $345,000 for immigrant legal services.

Following the release of the budget, UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Board of Regents Chair John Pérez released a public statement expressing their support for the governor’s proposed higher education spending.

“The governor’s spending plan provides critical, continued funding for the UC Riverside School of Medicine and the UCSF Fresno branch campus, helping to expand medical care access to underserved communities in California,” Napolitano and Pérez wrote. “Moreover, the proposal also invests in much-needed research on wildfire preparedness as well as crucial legal services for UC’s immigrant students.”

UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar issued a statement on the budget on Jan. 14, 2020, expressing support for the funding increase, while also outlining the intent to work closely with the governor to work on securing additional funding for student-related issues.

“Over the upcoming months, the UC Student Association looks forward to working with the Governor and state legislators to secure additional investments that reflect UC student priorities: investments in outreach and retention programs, mental health services, and resources for undocumented students, foster youth, and formerly incarcerated students,” Sarveshwar wrote. “UCSA also hopes to work with the Governor’s office and members of the legislature to secure the funding necessary to avoid a tuition increase.”

Newsom’s budget includes expansions for several other important areas of economic policy. Medi-Cal, California’s low-income health care program, is granted increased funding for several projects under the new plan. This includes the allocation of more than $80 million to provide coverage for undocumented seniors over the age of 65, which is currently estimated to be around 27,000 residents.

Another notable feature of the proposed budget is the emphasis on criminal justice reform. Newsom allocated over $24 million for the treatment of those who are determined to be unable to stand trial due to mental illness or developmental disabilities.

In an effort to combat the recent epidemic of youth vaping incidents, Newsom proposed a $2 tax for every 40 milligrams of nicotine contained in an electronic cigarette. Revenues from this tax, which are estimated to reach up to $32 million by 2021, will be invested into programs to further combat youth vaping throughout the state.

State legislators will begin a thorough analysis of Newsom’s budget later this month, which will be followed by policy discussions and budget negotiations. The legislature has until June 15, 2020 to review, edit, and pass the same version of a completed fiscal plan in both the California State Senate and the California State Assembly before sending a copy back to Newsom to be reviewed and signed into law.

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

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