Mar 102004
 
Authors: Adrienne Hoenig

Gov. Bill Owens does not want to place the burden of state

budget cuts on college students’ backs.

Dan Hopkins, Owens’ spokesperson, said Owens absolutely would

not support the 40-percent tuition increase proposed by the Joint

Budget Committee staff. The committee has not adopted the

proposal.

“The goal should be to encourage more people to go to college,”

Hopkins said. “A 40-percent tuition increase would discourage some

people from going to college and make it impossible for

others.”

The JBC staff recommended a nearly $100 million cut to higher

education on Tuesday to help ease the state budget crisis. If the

proposal is accepted by the six members of the JBC, in-state CSU

students may see a tuition increase of up to 40 percent.

“In the past, we have used cash funds from tuition to help

soften cuts on higher education,” said Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-Larimer

County, a member of the JBC.

Owens is in favor of securitization, the process of securing

funds owed to the state from a federal lawsuit against the tobacco

companies. This would bring in almost $1 billion to the state. Each

state has the option of receiving money from tobacco settlements in

a large lump sum or in annual installments, Hopkins said.

“You wouldn’t need to use all of it for higher education this

year, but you could certainly use a portion, which means you

wouldn’t have to have dire cuts and you wouldn’t have to have dire

increases,” Hopkins said. “It’s a practical solution.”

Members of the JBC disagree.

“All that money you (get) from selling the tobacco revenue (will

be) used up in a few years,” said Rep. Tom Plant, D-Boulder, Clear

Creek, Gilpin counties. “Fiscally it’s probably not the most

logical thing to do.”

Reeves said using one-time funds could have consequences,

although she was not talking specifically about tobacco

securitization.

“If we do one-time funds without some constitutional changes

that voters would approve, some pretty significant cuts would be

coming in the future,” Reeves said.

Gerard Bomotti, vice president for Administrative Services at

CSU, is hoping that Colorado voters will take Reeves’ admonition

seriously.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, limits the flexibility

of the state’s budget by requiring the state to give refunds on any

revenue it receives. Under TABOR, tuition is classified as revenue.

The bill also mandates spending for K-12 education, Medicare and

other areas before funding higher education.

“If (voters) don’t address funding problems with the state’s

constitution, funding for higher education will go to about zero,”

Bomotti said. “It’s inevitable.”

Owens sees tobacco securitization as the top option available

right now.

“It’s the most practical solution that’s on the table,” Hopkins

said. “What they’ve got on the table right now is unnecessary and

irresponsible.”

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