SACRAMENTO – Senate and Assembly Republicans today sent the following letter to Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez regarding budget funding for education and higher education.
March 29, 2012
Dear Governor Brown and Fellow Legislative Leaders:
We propose a set of alternative budget solutions that eliminate the need for your devastating education trigger cuts, which unnecessarily target California’s public schools, community colleges and universities.
The state budget is a reflection of priorities and there is no reason to hold our schools hostage to the uncertainties of the proposed tax increase initiative that may not benefit our students. With political will, we can work together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that our schools are protected from trigger cuts, whether the Governor’s tax initiative is ultimately accepted or rejected by the voters.
There are many important reasons why the trigger cuts that you have aimed at our students can and should be avoided:
· According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, the uncertainty surrounding the tax initiative will force public schools, colleges and universities to budget as if the trigger is going to be pulled. School districts cannot simply make mid-year trigger cuts late in the school year as the Governor proposes and it is irresponsible to expect them to do so.
· Eliminating the trigger cuts for our K-14 school system will remove the uncertainty you are imposing upon schools and reduce the number of teacher layoffs, that students are not wait-listed at our university system, and avoid the need for additional tuition/fee increases.
· The Legislative Analyst has also indicated that we would need about $3 billion in alternative solutions to keep K-14 funding at the same programmatic level as the current fiscal year. We would need to find an additional $400 million in alternatives to avoid your proposed trigger cuts to our higher education system. We have identified more than $4 billion of alternative solutions to avoid these disturbing and unnecessary cuts.
· Both the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance forecasts indicate that state tax revenue will grow next year by several billion dollars, even without future tax increases. At the very least, this growth in state revenue should mean that schools get the same level of programmatic funding they got this year.
Attached you will find a menu of options. It is not an exhaustive list, but it provides more than $4 billion in alternative solutions that allow us to eliminate the trigger cuts and protect our students and classrooms. The following principles provide the foundation for our alternative plan:
1. Hold schools harmless. Ensure school’s programmatic funding levels are not reduced and allow schools to get all the money they are entitled to under existing law.
2. Dedicate increased revenue to schools. Not only are revenues projected to grow without tax increases, there are significant tax windfalls anticipated (such as the Facebook IPO), and other opportunities to increase state revenues. These increased revenues were not available to spend on state programs last year, so using the growth to help our schools will not require a cut to any other program.
3. Streamline government and halt unnecessary spending. By making existing programs more efficient and eliminating unnecessary and non-critical new spending, we can find the funds to avoid your draconian reductions that punish students if the tax initiative fails at the ballot.
4. Continue to utilize prior viable budget solutions. By looking to solutions that worked well in previous state budgets, we can avoid the devastating cuts your plan would impose on our school system.
Finally, as a demonstration of good-faith to all Californians who are tired of chronic budget deficits and government overspending, we believe that it is time to make a long-term commitment to put our fiscal house in order. That is why we support giving voters an earlier opportunity to decide on Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4, which creates a state rainy day reserve fund, and the Governor’s pension reform proposal that is currently stalled in the Legislature.
We look forward to working with all of you to enact a reasonable, transparent, and on-time budget solution that truly puts education first.
Bob Huff Connie Conway
Senate Republican Leader Assembly Republican Leader
Bill Emmerson Jim Nielsen
Senate Budget Vice-Chair Assembly Budget Vice-Chair