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Berdahl rallies Sacramento support in daylong visit

05 May 2004

With Governor Schwarzenegger’s revised state budget for next year due to be issued this month, Chancellor Robert Berdahl spent a day last week in Sacramento, meeting with key legislators and members of the governor’s staff to advocate for UC Berkeley and higher education as the state’s purse strings continue to tighten.

Berdahl met with a series of leaders who, while acknowledging that tough budget years still lie ahead for California, said they recognize the value of Berkeley-educated students to the state and pledged to hold more hearings in the capital on the contributions of Berkeley and higher education to California’s economy and welfare.

In each of his meetings the chancellor expressed “deep regret” that in his January budget the governor chose to eliminate all state funding for outreach to K-12 schools. According to campus staff members who were also present, Berdahl did hear some encouraging indications that some of that funding might be restored in the May Revise, the governor’s revision of his January budget proposal.

Berdahl met with the governor’s deputy for legislative affairs, Paul Navarro, a Berkeley alumnus who is Schwarzenegger’s principal staff member for higher-education issues. Navarro told the chancellor that the state’s intense budget pressures limit the options available to the governor to reduce the level of cuts to higher education proposed in his January budget. He noted that incoming state revenues are less than anticipated, and that a few more tough budget years are most likely ahead. The chancellor emphasized how hard the proposed cuts would hit Berkeley, threatening the quality of education that Navarro had experienced as a student here.

Navarro said universities like Berkeley play an important part in instilling civic responsibility and an interest in public service in students. Berkeley’s role in educating well-rounded students who are knowledgeable in the humanities as well as the sciences is critically important to the future of California, he told Berdahl.

The chancellor picked up the theme of the value of higher education to the state’s economy in his meetings with Assemblywomen Carol Liu (D-La Cañada), chair of the Higher Education Committee, and Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), the next chair of the Education Finance Subcommittee of the Budget Committee. Both agreed that this benefit of higher education is not fully appreciated in Sacramento. Liu and Chan pledged to hold three more hearings on the topic, to be planned with Berkeley’s advice and assistance.

The chancellor had a frank discussion about how Berkeley should position itself in the budget battles in Sacramento with Assemblymen Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), chair and member of the Budget Committee, respectively, and both UC alumni.

“The assemblymen said Democrats are so disturbed by the cuts to higher education that they intend to ‘make a stand’ to protect our budget,” said Kathleen Moazed, Berkeley’s director of government affairs, who accompanied the chancellor on his Sacramento visit. “While everyone in the room acknowledged what a tough fight it will be, Assemblymen Steinberg and Laird both said Democrats feel that it is a fight worth having.”

Berdahl’s day in the capital also included conversations with Senator Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Black Caucus; Senator Dick Ackerman (R-Orange County), incoming Senate Minority Leader; Assembly-woman Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster), a member of the Education Finance Subcommittee of the Budget Committee; and Assemblyman Guy Houston (R-San Ramon).