Report on the UCOP Budget Discussion and FA Government Relations Activity
by Charles Nash and Myrna Hays
UC Budget News: On November 3 we had our now-customary annual meeting with Assistant Vice PresidentAcademic Advancement, Ellen Switkes, and Vice PresidentBudget, Larry Hershman. From Dr. Switkes we heard that there REALLY ARE NO VERIPs in the works, but, some campuses are beginning to implement “negotiated recall” agreements with eligible faculty members. She said that UC recently lowered its “normal age of retirement” from 70 to 60. Apparently there is no downside to doing that, and it evidently opens a door that previously was for all practical purposes closed. She had nothing to give us in writing on the subject, but we surmise that what may be occurring is a creative application of Regents’ Standing Order 103.6. (See http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/bylaws/so1036.html) Under this RSO retired faculty may be reappointed on a year-to-year basis, and in “special circumstances” multiple-year reappointments of retired faculty for up to five years at a time may be approved.
In all of our previous meetings, Larry Hershman had one or more bright spots to which he could point. This time the mood was pure black. In past years, in conjunction with the November Regents’ Meeting, UC published a 2”-thick budget proposal loaded with numbers and graphs. Mostly these budgets built upon a “Partnership” or a “Compact” that UC had crafted with Governors Wilson and Davis. Under these, UC expected agreed-upon budget increases in return for the fulfillment of agreed-upon goals. (The Legislature was never a party to any of these agreements.) This year all deals are off and the budget book is about the thickness of the telephone directory of a medium-size campus.
Instead of numbers, the Administration will ask the Regents to adopt a set of principles on the basis of which negotiations over the numbers can occur with the Governor’s Department of Finance. These principles could include (1) holding the line against further erosion of the quality of the institution (which translates into no further increase in the student/faculty ratio); (2) continuing to honor the Master Plan, but only if the funding which that document promises is providedotherwise freeze enrollments; (3) identifying additional fee increases as a viable option. (On this latter point, current CPEC policy provides that student fees should not provide more than 40% of the actual cost of education. At the moment, fees account for less than 25% of that figure.)
UC’s priorities include doing whatever can be done to improve faculty salaries. At the moment they are projected to lag those of the comparison institutions by 7 to 9 percent (The numbers are not all in yet.) Faculty merits will again be paid, no matter what. [ED comment: this could be due in large measure to the lawsuits in the 1990’s that the FAs supported.} Staff, of course, are not happy with that situation. Hershman said that if their merits cannot be funded at an appropriate level, other assistance such as improved health-care benefits might be sought.
Finally, he indicated that areas under scrutiny for budget cuts include Cooperative Extension (once again), Outreach, and targeted research funds. UC will insist that research cuts be made in legislatively-specified programmatic areas instead of the more typical “Here are the dollar-amounts, you guys figure out where to make them” kind.
Legislative Activity: The 2003 Legislative Session was a frustrating one because most legislators were almost hypnotically fixed on budget issues, while realizing as a practical matter that in the long run decisions would be made at the eleventh hour by a very small number of players. Consequently, there were very few hearings worth attending and even fewer bills worth following.
On the latter score we tracked 17 bills, of which only six related directly to UC. Four of these died between February and April of 2003. A fifth, AB 491 (Diaz), followed an interesting course (see below), but at the last moment its author asked that it be moved to the Assembly inactive file, from which it presumably could be resurrected at some later time by the same method.
As it was introduced in February, AB 491 was aimed at preventing instructional technology project and contract fiascos in the CSU system. In that form it passed easily (57:5) out of the Assembly and went on to the Senate, where, on September 4 in the Higher Education Committee, UC was added to the bill. In the amended version that passed the full Senate by a vote of 25:9 on September 10, UC and CSU would have been required to have all IT projects or contracts exceeding $3 million overseen by an auditor provided by the Department of Finance. Systemwide projects exceeding $20 million would be required to be submitted to the Governor for approval, be included in his/her budget, and reviewed annually. The bill was then returned to the Assembly for concurrence with the Senate amendments, but instead, on September 12 Assembly member Diaz asked that AB 491 be placed in the inactive file.
Only one of the bills we followed, AB 1230 (Hancock), passed the legislature and was signed into law. The bill establishes what is called a “card-check” recognition procedure for exclusive employee representational recognition at UC and CSU, in lieu of a secret ballot election. If an employer challenges the legitimacy of a union’s claim of majority support within a bargaining unit, a neutral third party may certify proof of majority support using information supplied through a signed petition, authorization cards, or union membership cards. If another organization claims at least 30% support, the third party will then conduct a secret ballot election to determine majority support of the employees. UC opposed this bill, arguing that it would deny employees the opportunity to make a decision in the voting booth free from outside influences, and to have “no representation” as one of the options on the ballot.
Only one other bill deserves to be mentioned here. AB 665 (Liu) is a two-year bill, which, if passed in a form similar to its present one, will profoundly affect higher education policymaking. It would combine the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) and the California Student Aid Commission into a new entity, the California Postsecondary Education Policy and Finance Commission. By statute, the new commission would be the principal fiscal and program adviser to the Governor and the Legislature on postsecondary educational policy.
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