Leaders of the three branches of California's public higher education system emerged from an hour-long meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown today optimistic that an all-cuts budget would be avoided.
And the governor emerged feisty, pledging to keep pushing for tax extensions despite the breakdown in budget negotiations last week.
"I don't think the people of California want to wreck the state," Brown said as he stood beside the college leaders outside his office.
"The university is an engine of wealth creation. Stripping it of its professors and its research in the way that an all-cuts budget would require is unacceptable. I'm going to do everything I can to convince the Republicans here to vote for the tax extensions, to put them on the ballot. And I'm going to go throughout this state to mobilize support," Brown said.
He said he was exploring a range of options and will travel the state to meet with people whose livelihoods depend on the state budget, including university administrators, school boards, teachers, police and sheriffs.
"I'm convinced that we're going to have a very powerful coalition and rally California to protect its vital and basic interests," Brown said.
Jack Scott, chancellor of the state's community colleges, said he'll support the governor's efforts.
"We're willing to join our voices to say there needs to be some kind of extension of taxes, otherwise in all of our communities we're going to see young people turned away from our colleges and universities," Scott said. "That's going to be a tragedy for them, but it's going to be a bigger tragedy for the future of California."
Brown has already signed bills that cut $1.4 billion from higher education for 2011-12. Cal State campuses are planning to admit 10,000 fewer students, some UC campuses are admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition and community college fees are going up by $10 a unit.
Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, said changes at the colleges will be even more drastic if higher education faces deeper cuts.
"You haven't seen anything yet in terms of layoffs, in terms of limiting enrollments, in terms of reducing programs, in terms of rising tuition," Yudof said. "If this all-cuts budget goes through, it's going to be terrible for California."