A risky game of chicken playing out as the Joint Budget Committee tries to hammer out more revenue-mandated cuts to the budget, the Denver Post reports:
If Colorado sheds $300 million from its higher education budget, the state could forgo up to $105 million in federal stimulus money – a double whammy that alarmed college presidents said would force them to boost tuition, cap enrollment and dramatically pare programs.
The $300 million cut proposed Wednesday by the Joint Budget Committee would slash the state’s higher education budget next year by more than half.
Because the feds are requiring states to maintain funding levels from the 2005-06 school year, Colorado could miss out on tens of millions of dollars.
Higher education officials vowed Thursday that they would apply for a waiver to get the stimulus money if their funding dropped too far…
Wednesday’s proposed cuts are part of a last-minute effort – deemed “a very young discussion” by the governor – by budget-writing lawmakers to pit higher education against a quasi-public agency that guarantees workers’ compensation insurance.
Lawmakers would prefer that Pinnacol Assurance give up $500 million and are using the threat of higher ed cuts to force the agency’s hand.
It boils down to a move to force the state’s semipublic workman’s-comp insurer of last resort, Pinnacol Assurance, to transfer assets the JBC considers superfluous to its mandate in order to balance the budget. We’d say if that’s true it ought to be considered, but there seems to be some debate on this question–and either way, threatening cuts that would force 30% tuition increases and other devastating changes at Colorado public colleges is as close to a scorched-earth ultimatum as can be delivered. Better win that poker game, eh?