Editor's Note: This story was revised Aug. 6 to include information on the Academic Senate Memorial.
The University of California Board of Regents today (July 18) voted to support Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative on the November ballot, calling it UC's best option for avoiding a steep, mid-year tuition increase and protecting university quality.
On a voice vote, all but one regent voted to endorse Brown's November revenue initiative as the fiscally responsible thing to do as stewards of the university.
As part of that same action, regents endorsed the state's 2012-13 UC budget and agreed to freeze mandatory systemwide student charges for the current academic year, contingent on passage of Brown's initiative.
UC President Mark G. Yudof, in recommending that the board support the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 — on the ballot as Prop. 30 — urged the board to consider all that is at stake for UC if it fails.
In addition to a potential mid-year tuition increase of as much as $2,400, UC would be forced to consider a whole range of cost-cutting measures, including academic program closings, hiring freezes and layoffs, he said.
"Given this context, I am asking you, as the regents of this great university, to endorse this revenue initiative. I realize that it may not be the best tax policy possible. I realize that if I were a policy expert at a think tank, I might design a different initiative.
"But I am an officer of the University of California. You are its stewards. And this initiative is a step towards stability that we simply cannot afford to dismiss."
Regents, in taking action, noted that the UC Assembly of the Academic Senate, by an overwhelming margin (93 percent of the 3,404 members who voted), had approved a memorial — its highest level of communication — calling on regents to support specific measures that will increase state revenue and prioritize funding for higher education.
Brown's initiative, if it wins voter approval, would generate an estimated $8.5 billion in new state revenue by temporarily increasing the personal income tax on those earning $250,000 or more, and by raising the state sales tax by one-quarter of a cent for four years.
Shortly after the vote, Brown dropped into the meeting to thank regents for their support of his measure and told them that if it passes, the additional revenue could help return stability to both California and the university.
"If we keep an even keel, I think (the state) can renew the kind of support the university has long enjoyed," Brown said.
Under the 2012-13 budget approved by the governor and legislature, UC and the California State University system will each face mid-year "trigger cuts" of $250 million in state funding if the measure fails. UC also will lose an additional $125.4 million in 2013-14 that is contingent on the university freezing mandatory systemwide student charges during the current academic year.
Lawmakers agreed to the so-called "tuition buyout" following an intensive effort by students, regents and university supporters to persuade lawmakers to make higher education a budget priority.
With $375 million in state funding hanging in the balance, UC has a lot at stake come November, said Regent Richard Blum.
"We are trustees and have a fiduciary responsibility to this institution," Blum said. "We should all support this. I personally will be supporting it vigorously."
Regent Bonnie Reiss noted that even if the measure passes, UC still faces budget challenges given the deep state cuts UC has sustained over the last 10 years.
"It's a simple question. Will UC be better off if it passes?" Reiss said. "The answer isn't just yes; it's hell, yes."
Although regents have endorsed Brown's revenue measure, UC faculty, staff and administrators are precluded by law from using state resources, time or equipment to lobby either for or against any ballot measure. The university can, however, share factual information about the initiative's impact on the university. And members of the UC community are free to participate in political activities on their own time and using their own resources.