Feb 162004
 
Authors: Chris Kampfe

As the Colorado General Assembly begins planning for 2005 fiscal

year, the battle between the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and higher

education may be coming to an end.

Sen. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction, is fully aware of the

possibility of this ending. Teck is considering asking the assembly

to put an initiative before voters to either redraft TABOR to help

balance the budget or allow the elimination of funding for higher

education altogether.

Teck has speculated that cutting funding would, among other

repercussions, force universities to privatize themselves and

potentially raise tuition by two or three times to subsidize lost

funds.

Keith Ickes, associate vice president for Administrative

Services and director of the Office of Budget and Institutional

Analysis, said cuts of this magnitude are unprecedented for higher

education.

“There is no precedent, if this were to happen, it would be

overwhelming. We’re talking about earth-shattering changes,” Ickes

said. “No one has ever done this. The last time this might have

possibly happened would have been in the 1800s when universities

were founded by land grants”

Linda Kuk, vice president for Student Affairs, has similar views

on the situation.

“This is fate, it’s either going to happen soon or it’s not,”

Kuk said. “If the funding does get cut altogether, higher education

in the state would probably come to a halt.”

Andy Hartman is the director of policy and research for the Bell

Policy Center in Denver and has been closely following the TABOR’s

effects on higher education. Hartman said he is not fully aware of

Teck’s intentions, but he is hoping they are to draw attention to

the issue, rather than make actual cuts.

“I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to make people know what is

happening,” Hartman said. “People are starting to understand that

this issue is the poster child for how TABOR is wreaking

havoc.”

Hartman said that even though higher education is bringing

TABOR’s problems to the forefront, its effects can be seen in other

state areas as well.

“It’s not the only part of the budget that’s getting killed,”

Hartman said. “Public health is getting disbanded as well. A lot of

bad things are happening because of TABOR.”

Hartman said his organization will be very involved in bringing

a proposal to the legislature on TABOR.

“Our first point is that we don’t need to dismantle higher

education, we need to fix TABOR,” Hartman said. “We’ll probably be

in close contact with (state legislators) to fully understand this

message.”

While Hartman and his associates will be working hands-on with

the legislature, CSU has restrictions on its involvement.

“We can provide information to the public, but because we’re

funded by the state, we can’t use state dollars to lobby against

legislation,” Ickes said. “What we can do is institutionally

provide information.”

While speculations are still being made as to the intended

effects of Teck’s comments, the feeling of a looming fiscal danger

is still around for officials in higher education.

“If I were a student,” Kuk said. “I would be very

concerned.”

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