With the state legislative session just adjourned, UC's director of state government relations says that between the effect of term limits and the usual election turnover, there'll be dramatic changes ahead in Sacramento when the legislators return in January.
When they do, the UC budget is top on the agenda for the UC office of State Government Relations, said Steve Arditti, the office's long-time director, during a recent visit to campus.
After several extremely hard years in the early '90s, he said, the picture for UC brightened this year with a 6.5 percent overall funding increase.
This brought progress in closing the gap between UC faculty salaries and those of competing institutions and the second year running without undergraduate fee increases.
But he added that while the state's economy and revenues are up, continued demands for mandated funding of elementary schools, prisons and health and welfare programs continue to grow.
"On top of that, federal welfare reform will require major decisions by the state on how that's to be implemented. These decisions could involve state costs that could place additional pressure on higher education funding," said Arditti.
But there is reason for optimism, he said. "In general, the experience we've had this year should give us some hope and optimism. One thing we can observe is a renewed recognition of the importance of UC to the state's future -- its economic future and social future.
"We'll always be fighting for funds, but it's in a better context" when UC's benefit to the state is understood and supported, he said.
The November election will be the third following voter-imposed term limits. At least 10 state senators and another 25 or so Assembly members will be leaving for sure because of term-limit restrictions, said Arditti.
He said term limits, combined with the usual turnover after an election, means there will be "a dramatic change in the composition" of the state's lawmakers.
What such rapid change will mean for UC's interests is not entirely clear, said Arditti. "It certainly offers us enhanced challenges. In the past, people have served long enough to become familiar with a variety of matters, including higher education.
"We've developed relationships of trust and confidence," over the years. Now, with such rapid change, "that becomes much more difficult," he said.
Arditti noted that two long-time champions of higher education in general and UC in particular, senators Nicholas Petris and Alfred Alquist and assemblymen Tom Bates and Bob Campbell, will be leaving because of term limits.
On the issue of the state's Master Plan for Higher Education, Arditti said there is "a lot of ferment out there" for change. This has come in part because of concern over reports that there will be "a large wave of enrollment growth on the one hand and possible lack of sufficient funds to meet the growth on the other."
He added, however, that the master plan "has survived the test of time in a very dramatically successful way."
What he imagines occurring is enhanced cooperation and a closer working relationship between the community colleges, the Cal State system and UC, rather than wholesale changes in the master plan.