The first look at the first draft of the new, draconian state budget is here, and at first glance it looks like relatively good news for the community colleges, but overall, the situation is pretty damn dire.
Looking at the governor's own highlights, it looks like there will be no COLAs for CC staff for the next few years, that tuition will be increased by five percent, and that the operating budget will have to be cut by seven percent. Considering how our Cascadia Budget Council has been trying to imagine 20% cuts, this seems like a relatively simple exercise in comparison. Not that seven percent won't mean painful dislocations; I still fully expect people I know and like to have less work - or no work - as a result, and the five percent tuition increase will almost certainly mean the difference between access and barrier for some of our students. It's hard times all around.
But I can't feel too good about all this when I look at the proportionally greater cuts to heath and human services. For just one example: 13,000 low-income patients will no longer receive chemical dependency treatment. Those are actual individual people with actual problems who will now not get help where once they did and who will then stress some other part of our society, whether that is their family, the police, or you, when you're walking down the street. The proposed cuts to direct services necessary to balance the budget include many such scenarios of people's quality of life changing substantially.
The governor spared community colleges from some of the burden of cuts apparently because she feels that any economic recovery needs the worker retraining provided through the CC system. That makes sense; we can't live in crisis mode forever and we need to continue to plan for the future. But thinking about the future doesn't make it any easier to make even bigger cuts that effect direct services today.
So, while I feel a little bit relieved by the news, I am far from a good mood.