California: The Power of the Purse

CaliPurse.jpg

Apparently some lawmakers in California think that if they have more control over the state’s higher education finances, that’ll keep education costs in the state lower. According to an article by Michael Mishak in the Los Angeles Times:

Angered by years of student fee hikes at California’s public universities and colleges, lawmakers are pursuing legislation that would give them broad new powers over how the higher education systems spend taxpayer money.

The proposals include measures to limit student fees, freeze executive compensation and increase budget transparency, and even a constitutional amendment that would strip the University of California of its historic autonomy.

Good luck with that. Schwarzenegger vetoed several such measures under his tenure. Facing a $25.4 billion budget deficit, the legislature is likely to cut funding for the universities even more. And so the universities will probably raise tuition.

The California higher education system may well be in crisis. It’s supposed to be a system free and accessible to everyone in order to provide educated citizens to the state. In practice it’s become expensive and highly dependent on budgeting gimmicks and to out-of-state students in order to survive.

But can the legislature fix this problem? Probably not.

Extensive constitutional amendments have rendered the California legislature one of the least effective governing bodies in the free world. So far the state’s assembly and senate have proven remarkably bad at solving any of the state’s problems.

Prisons. College. Public education. Energy infrastructure. If it’s a politically-controlled institution in California, it probably doesn’t work very well.

The article explained some legislators’ goals:

In a letter to University of California officials last month, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D- Los Angeles) called for full transparency in budgeting. He noted that previous fee increases had already provided a combined $950 million for both systems and suggested that the Legislature should play a more active role in university budgeting.

“I’m sure legislators want to be engaged in that discussion,” Perez told The Times.

I’m sure they do too. But would their engagement make things better? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer