A Committee of Two

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Here’s a state committee that might actually produce recommendations that would bring change. The fact that Governor Jerry Brown and University of California president Janet Napolitano will form a Committee of Two to take a look at the costs that drive the University of California system is an excellent idea. Here you have two leaders who are accountable for the results of the committee’s work. Californians should expect that recommendations coming from the commission would see some action.

I speak from some not-so-stellar experiences. I served on six state commissions appointed by governors and assembly speakers from both major political parties. The results of the recommendations put forth by those commissions that dealt with the initiative process to the tax system to constitutional alterations to re-organizing the state government produced no changes. The commission reports ended up gathering dust on some office shelf.

However, with the governor and university president the heads and total membership of the Committee of Two (with staff help from their respective offices) we can expect recommendations will be taken seriously.

The Committee of Two concept came out of the stand off between the governor and the UC regents who have a difference of opinion about the tuition increase demanded by the regents and Napolitano if the state did not provide another $100 million or so in revenue to the university system.

Before any more taxpayer money is pledged to the university, we ought to know how the university currently uses its resources. When the tuition increase issue came up before the regents a couple months ago, I argued here that, “Before tuition is raised the regents should audit the system to see what is driving the cost.” The university should conduct audits to discover how money is spent, how much professors teach, how much is required to cover pension and health care benefits.

The latter point is important. In fact, at the time the tuition debate surfaced, the UC Chief Financial Officer, Nathan Brostrom, cited retirement costs in explaining the need for tuition hikes. As the Sacramento Bee put it at the time: “Brostrom emphasized that UC feels it is not getting what was promised to the university with the Proposition 30 tax hikes, which increased revenues by 8 percent, and that it could avoid raising tuition if the state helped fund its retiree costs.” (My emphasis.)

Not to be lost in this debate is the debt burden that is put on the students with the cost of education and the unconscionable cost of student loans.

If the regents approve the committee proposal, the Committee of Two should spread some sunshine into the corners of the university costs and budget.

Follow Joel Fox on Twitter @1JoelFox1

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