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Cal State holds off on budget decisions, lobbies for more state money

Cal State University hopes brighter economic outlook will push legislators to loosen purse strings
Cal State officials say their lobbying of legislators to get more money may be paying off

California State University is delaying some budget decisions for next year in hopes that an improved economic outlook may spur California legislators free up more funding for the vast system, which annually educates nearly half a million students.

In November, Cal State had requested a support budget of $237.6 million to enroll 20,000 more students and hire 500 additional full-time faculty members, among other uses.

But in his 2014-15 spending plan, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed state funding of $142.2 million for the institution. At a March meeting of the Board of Trustees, Brown cautioned that the university’s needs had to compete with a long list of other state priorities.

Since then, Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White, faculty, students and staff have made a hard push in Sacramento to convince legislators to make up all or part of the $95-million difference.

At a meeting of the trustees Tuesday in Long Beach, officials said those lobbying efforts may be paying off.

“There has been significant interest by the Legislature to reinvest in the CSU after many years of significant funding reductions,” said Ryan Storm, interim assistant vice chancellor for budget. He added that White would hold off on determining how to allocate next year’s funding.

Storm’s assessment was bolstered by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a trustee, who called the 23-campus Cal State system the “backbone of workforce development in California.”

“Let’s not roll over to the status quo,” Newsom said. “We’re not going to give up and accept the current budget proposal.”

Trustees were presented with about 15,000 signatures on a petition calling for greater state support for the university, faculty, staff and students. The petition was presented by the Cal State University Employees Union, which represents grounds workers, custodians, and administrative and technical staff.

The group's contract expires in June and negotiations are underway. Members held a rally outside the meeting.

“We really want the $95 million restored, then it’s all about what we do with that money,” said Mike Geck, vice president for organizing, who works at Cal State San Marcos.

“We want to ensure that tuition stays frozen, make sure classes are there so students can get in and out," he said, but the union also wants "CSU to recognize the integral part staff plays in student success.”

The full board will meet again Wednesday.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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