Lawmaker talks budget with students, meets with chancellor

A recent email plea from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, asking that state legislators come and discuss the future of California’s higher-education system, did bring one lawmaker to campus Tuesday. Before he met privately with the chancellor, though, state Sen. Kevin De León made a public appearance on Sproul Plaza, where he called for an end to corporate tax loopholes and Prop. 13’s two-thirds majority constraints on the Legislature’s ability to pass revenue bills.

The L.A. Democrat, who represents what he called “probably the most diverse district on planet Earth,” drew a crowd of about 40 to the Mario Savio Steps for a brief “Open University” class on California’s “dysfunctional political system,” and the need to “stop draconian cuts from taking place” by addressing the root causes of state disinvestment in higher ed.  

From there, he headed to California Hall, where he and the chancellor had a “thoughtful and productive conversation about where the University of California gets its revenues, and the change in the revenue mix over the past several years,” according to Kieran Flaherty, the campus’s director of state government relations.

Flaherty, who attended the hourlong meeting, said Birgeneau made a point of explaining how middle-income families were bearing the brunt of UC tuition hikes, and praised Sacramento’s support for Cal Grants as an example of working together on such common goals as access and affordability for the state’s residents.

The two also discussed, among other budget-related issues, De León’s SB 116, which would end a tax break that gives a competitive edge to corporations anchored outside of California. Supporters say passage of the bill, which is backed by California-based companies like Apple and Genentech, could bring in $1 billion in annual revenues for the state.