SMC Awaits Results of State Budget Crisis

Quarreling between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators turned solving California's $15.2 billion deficit into the state's worst budget crisis. Community colleges and state health care programs haven't been financed since California's fiscal year started on July 1. Until the state legislature presents an acceptable budget to Gov. Schwarzenegger, these programs will remain unfunded.

Fortunately, SMC's operations are continuing in spite of California's budget crisis. Although SMC is paying for its expenses without state assistance, classes are still open and teachers are getting paid. "Historically Santa Monica College has a high level of reserves," Bruce Smith, SMC's public information officer said.

SMC had $18 million, primarily in state aid, which is being used to run the school while the state government resolves budget issues. "We are eating through half of it," Lawson said. Once the budget is passed, the state won't reimburse SMC's $9 million projected operations expenditure.

"We have faith that the state will pass the budget," SMC Vice President Randall Lawson said. "We are not optimistic that the budget will be good." If Gov. Schwarzenegger passed his proposed budget, the amount of money SMC receives per student and financial aid levels would remain the same, Lawson said. However, Lawson is concerned that California's ratified budget will cut money to financial aid recipients, he said.

On Monday, California lawmakers finally agreed upon a budget, but Gov. Schwarzenegger promised to veto it. "When they send me the budget, I will veto it," Schwarzenegger said at a Capitol news conference. If Schwarzenegger vetoed the budget, legislators promised to override in quick succession, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Students still aren't receiving their promised Cal grants because the governor hasn't officially ratified the budget. Fortunately, this hasn't deterred people from attending class. Not one person has applied for an emergency loan, Steven Myrow dean of financial aid said.

Cal grant recipients should have received $383 by now. The absence of Cal grants hasn't been an issue for most students because they also receive federal aid through Pell grants, Myrow said. "Students haven't said they can't eat at night because my Cal grant check didn't come," Myrow said.