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In a four-page review, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said today that lawmakers should reject Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed ballot measure to dedicate more money to public universities than prisons.

"It is an unnecessary, ill-conceived measure that would do serious harm to the budget process," the LAO report concludes.

Schwarzenegger's constitutional amendment would require the state to spend no more than 7 percent of general fund money on corrections and no less than 10 percent on the University of California and California State University systems.

In 2009-10, the state is spending 5.7 percent of general fund money on UC and CSU, compared to 9.5 percent on corrections in the governor's revised budget.

LAO points out that corrections has received an increasing share of state budget funds because the number of inmates and parolees has increased, federal judges have imposed additional costs due to prison health care lawsuits and correctional officer compensation has increased.

But LAO says that the percentage figures don't tell the whole story. The UC and CSU totals don't include Cal Grant money that helps pay for tuition. At the same time, California -- as have other states -- has increasingly shifted costs to students as a policy change.

LAO lists various reasons the state shouldn't pursue a ballot measure that enshrines percentages in the state constitution. It says the measure would ignore community colleges, inappropriately pit two program areas against each other and set arbitrary benchmarks that could hurt spending on other state priorities. It notes that the governor and Legislature already have the ability to prioritize higher education in any given budget year.



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