State Senator Kevin Witkos talks about the state policy of balancing the state budget with tuition dollars from state-run universities and colleges.
Zachary Janowski: Hi this is Zachary Janowski from Raising Hale. Today we’re going to talk to Senator Kevin Witkos about using tuition dollars to balance the state budget.
Sen. Witkos: I’m Kevin Witkos, I’m the state Senator from the 8th senatorial district. I represent 11 towns.
Zach: In May, the General Assembly passed a bill to close the state’s $700 million budget deficit.
Witkos: We got the bill maybe an hour and a half before we were asked to vote on it. And the bill had over 300 pages in it. And it’s basically just a name and a number.
Zach: The bill included a provision that transferred $10 million of past tuition payments to cover the states day to day expenses. Senator Witkos explains.
Witkos: [The bill] reduced the Connecticut State University fund by $10 million dollars. And that’s all it tells you, so… can you make an educated decision based on that? Absolutely not. And the previous budget deficit litigation plan… money was taken out of the UConn reserve as well.
Witkos: My question was specifically, are there any student fees that are made up that come out of this account. The one word answer I got from the chair was, “yes.”
Zach: The money removed from the Connecticut State University Fund works out to $337 for each undergrad. At UConn, the money removed works out to $1,163 per undergrad.
Witkos: So, it’s disturbing to me that the Board of Trustees are raising the tuition costs to students and people that are barely making it – that the state legislature is using the moneys that were set aside for student fees to pay for budget gaps in our operating budget. And I have more concern that we are building a slush fund through our university systems and – while we’re raising tuition at the same time.
Witkos: It concerns me that we are making decisions without deep thought and the consequences of what may happen based on what becomes law.
Witkos: We should learn to live within our means in Connecticut. We have to make spending cuts that we need to make. And we’re taking money out of our college/university funds that we’ll go back to—it’s intended for use for the colleges and the students are paying for it. And the parents are paying for it. So you’re getting a double whack on the tax.
Witkos: Well, this goes along with the rest – stealing money out of the Clean Energy Fund, which ratepayers are paying for and their electric bills to be used for the Clean Energy projects, and we’re using that to help to pay down the budget gap as well. These are moneys that – it’s okay if you’re [inaudible], but if you’re designating certain amounts of moneys to go into these specific accounts – use it for that reason because now, basically, you’ve lied to the tax-payers, the residents of the state, saying “the money’s going for this” and not doing – that’s not what the fund was designated for, and that’s your money. We can’t go back on our word. And that’s a bring problem in Connecticut because we’re not dealing with the issue at hand, which is out of control government spending.