On January 6, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented the disastrous condition of public higher education in California and decried the fact that California now spends more on prisons than higher education. He called for a constitutional amendment to reverse this situation and commit at least 10% of the state budget to higher ed (UC and CSU) and limit prison funding to 7%.
This is just the kind of “ballot box budgeting” that the Governor used to condemn. Moreover, since the Governor makes the budget, Schwarzenegger could just have proposed these allocations in the budget he produced a few days later. He didn’t.
The fine print is even more cynical:
- The provisions would not take effect until 2014, long after he left office.
- The amendment could be suspended by the governor by declaring a “fiscal emergency.”
- The amendment could be waived by a 2/3 vote of the Legislature, the same vote it takes to pass the budget.
And there is more:
- The amendment is tied to privatizing prisons and allowing the prison employees to be exempt from civil service.
- The amendment prohibits early release programs to reduce prison costs.
Finally, the amendment includes an unusual “non-severability clause,” which says that if any part of the amendment is found to be illegal, the whole amendment is killed.
The bottom line: This is a PR proposal to take pressure off Governor Schwarzenegger and the UC and CSU leadership to restore the promise of public higher education without changing anything.