Local government officials and policy experts said Gov. Bill Ritterâ€™s signing of Coloradoâ€™s $20 billion budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 on Thursday could shift even more burden onto the backs of students to make up for massive cuts to higher education next year.
The budget includes $61.5 million in cuts to higher education to help make up for a $1.3 billion shortfall this year, said state Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.
Suspending or eliminating many tax breaks, reducing K-12 education funding by 4.6 percent and cutting funds for smaller programs statewide helped close the shortfall. Federal stimulus money from the American Recover and Reinvestment Act was used fill the gaps created by the higher education cuts.
These funds will run out by the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Kefalas said.
â€œIt is estimated that the state may have to cut higher education funding by $300 million that fiscal year,â€ Kefalas said.
The state suspended 13 tax credits and sales tax exemptions to add $140 million in state revenue.
Megan Castle, communications manager for Ritter, said that the tax breaks ere eliminated to protect K-12 and higher education from more budget cuts.
The CSU system will lose $14.8 million in funds from the state budget. In-state students will pay about 9 percent more in tuition costs to make up for the budget cuts, while out-of-state students will pay 5 percent more.
CSU political science professor, John Straayer, said that, like Ritter and the Joint Budget Committee, he was not pleased about the cuts, but he said that the JBC had to make some hard choices to present a balanced budget, which is required by state law.
â€œThe Joint Budget Committee deserves a gold medal,â€ Straayer said. â€œTheyâ€™ve taken enormous heat.â€
Straayer warned that the cost of higher education would shift more onto the backs of students in years to come.
The stimulus money has delayed this shift some, but higher education will face significant budget cuts in the next year or two, Straayer said.
While K-12 and most other state funding streams are largely protected from budget cuts by state law, higher education does not have budget cut limits.
When cuts need to be made, education is often among the first departments to lose funding, said Associated Students of CSU Legislative Affairs Director Matt Worthington.
â€œWhen we start to make cuts, it has to come to higher education,â€ Worthington said.
â€œTheyâ€™re scraping the bottom of the barrel to find money for higher education,â€ he said.
Staff writer Keeley Blakely can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.