Sacto a Pathetic Spectacle

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Nothing could be more depressing than a piece in today's Chron, in which the state leaders, frankly, aren't even trying to resolve the $19 billion budget deficit. In years past, such as the annis horribilis that was 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the legislature's leaders at least met in person and tried to figure out a compromise. But this year, the governor has called a meeting of the "Big Five" only once, and that lasted less than an hour. That's as the budget enters its 61st day overdue. Wyatt Buchanan reports that neither the governor nor the Democratic and Republican leaders have any leverage over one another anymore, and each side is simply going to present a competing budget for a vote, which will obviously lose, since neither side has a two-thirds majority. As the state prepares to issue IOUs again, Sacramento leaders seem to have simply given up.

At least UC Berkeley seems to be doing better. In a back-to-school remark last week, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said that the school's budget is considerably in the black, and he's ready to start hiring faculty and expanding classes. What happened? First, last year's crisis spooked wealthy alumni into giving tons of cash to bail out their alma mater. Second, that 32 percent tuition bump flushed a lot more money into the coffers. See what happens when you squeeze students and raise student fees so high that poor kids are effectively locked out of a public university? Everything starts coming up roses, apparently.

UPDATE: Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof read this post and wrote to remind me of something I'd forgotten: that one third of all tuition has been set aside for student financial aid, which considerably erodes my casual remark that low-income students are getting the shaft. Mogulof added that a higher percentage of students from families earning less than $45,000 a year are expected to attend UC Berkeley this year, and concluded, "The demographic that really gets hit hard are [sic] middle class families who are not affluent enough to afford additional costs, and too affluent to be eligible for things like Pell and Cal grants."

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