California's Legislature overwhelmingly approved budget legislation Thursday that would lift spending on education programs to their highest level ever and generally satisfy officials of the state's three college and university systems in 2005-6. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reached an agreement with legislative leaders on a budget deal on Tuesday, is expected to sign the measure early next week.
The legislation largely upholds the terms of the budget "compacts" that the University of California and California State University systems reached with the governor and legislators last year, in which state officials committed to certain levels of spending in exchange for promises from the universities to minimize tuition increases. Officials of the two university systems said they would not consider the budget final until the governor signs it, since he has the power to veto individual lines in the plan.
But Brad Hayward, a spokesman for the University of California, said: "We're very pleased that the Legislature has adopted a budget plan that includes the governor's compact with higher education and which ends the four years of cuts we've sustained. We're looking forward to seeing the details of the final budget once the governor acts on it."
Officials of the California Community Colleges system, which was shortchanged in the 2004-5 budget that was not approved until January, expressed their appreciation for better treatment in the agreement reached this week.
“This is a very good and fair budget for the community colleges of California, especially considering the great fiscal challenges that the Governor and the Legislature faced this year,” said Marshall (Mark) Drummond, chancellor of the two-year-college system. "This budget will allow community colleges to accommodate the strong enrollment growth that we expect in many parts of the state, and to make further progress towards equitable per-student funding of college districts all around the state."
Drummond said that overall funding for community colleges in the budget legislation would reach almost $5.8 billion, including an increase of $439 million, or 9.1 percent, in funds from Proposition 98, which finances operations of public schools and community colleges. Tuition at two-year colleges will remain flat under the plan.
The legislation also provides $20 million to bolster nursing training programs at community colleges and universities.