Mar 162003
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

While CSU students were out during spring break, Colorado lawmakers were busy announcing budget cuts for the next fiscal year

Last week, the Joint Budget Committee suggested a $150 million cut in Colorado higher education’s $800 million budget along with suggesting state colleges increase tuition by 11.9 percent to compensate for the cuts.

If the cuts go through, CSU looks to lose $22 million.

The cuts still have to be approved by both houses but the cuts are heavily favored.

Gov. Bill Owens, who vetoed past suggested tuition increases, has been reported to consider vetoing a bill asking for a 11.9 percent tuition increase. Joan Ringle, a spokesperson for the Colorado Commission of Higher Education, said the governor has not said whether or not he would veto any increase and is waiting to see the final bill, but thinks 12 percent it too high.

On Friday, Owens, through his chief budget officer, said he is not prepared to increase tuition by 12 percent for in-state students. He felt that even an increase by 10 percent would be too high.

Owens also said that the state might revisit higher education to make more cuts giving the figure of $25 million of additional cuts.

The state is going to ask college presidents to be creative in dealing with these budgets cuts, Ringle said.

The state of Colorado is going through a budget crisis and higher education has to put in its fair share, she said.

Calling it a short-term problem Ringle said there is a lot of confidence in college presidents to work with the budget setbacks.

Higher education is a sitting duck for budget cuts because it is the largest item not protected by state or federal mandate.

State legislatures do not have spending discretion when it comes to things such as prisons, K-12 education, transportation or Medicare because they are either mandated or protected by state or federal provisions.

“Higher education is the largest budget the legislature has power over,” Ringle said.

Lawmakers have also cut merit-based scholarships by half from $14.8 million to $7.4 million.

The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News contributed to this story.

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