About a dozen mayors, police chiefs, university presidents and hospital representatives on Wednesday said the state’s budget problems must be solved without more cuts.

Sam Singh, East Lansing mayor pro-tem and president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, said citizens need to realize that tax cuts and the state’s economic slowdown have forced less spending in areas that affect their quality of life.

Since 2003, the state has been trying to cut its way out of a budget deficit. The budget shortfalls hit the University particularly hard: the state slashed the University’s funding by 13.7 percent between 2003 and 2006.

In response to the cuts, the University suspended hiring in many departments, cut some courses, increased class sizes and shortened the hours of the library system among other measures.

Last summer, the state increased the University’s funding by 3 percent, or about $10 million dollars, to $324 million. But even with this small increase, the percentage of the University’s budget that comes from the state is at a near historic low.

State appropriations made up about 25 percent of the University’s general fund in 2005, with tuition and fees accounting for a little over 59 percent.

A few decades ago the picture was very different.

In 1960, tuition only made up 21 percent of the general fund, with state appropriations accounting for nearly 78 percent.

State appropriations and tuition are closely related, so many are concerned that this year’s state budget shortfall might mean mid-year cuts to funding.

“We’ve cut too much, not only in human services but in public safety and education,” Singh said. “Enough is enough. We need to begin to reinvest in our cities if we’re to get out of this economic downturn.”

The news conference was held by a consortium of universities, health associations and cities that calls itself the Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project. All three groups have seen cuts in state funding in recent years and face additional cuts now that the state finds itself again in the red.

Revenues for the budget year that began Oct. 1 may fall $556 million short of what was forecast, meaning the state could face a deficit of more than $800 million once increased costs for health care, prisons and other items are figured in. Revenues for the next fiscal year, which begins this fall, are also expected to fall short of projections.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm plans to lay out her plans for dealing with the state’s ongoing revenue problems in early February during her State of the State address and in her budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Glenn Mroz, president of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, noted that higher education has seen its state funding cut by around $250 million over the past four years, around $2,300 per student.

“Michigan universities, we have to be better year after year, because as we look around, our competition is not within Michigan, it’s not with Illinois, it’s not with New York or California. Our competition is worldwide, and we have to make sure that our students are prepared for the world.”

The Associated Press and Walter Nowinski contributed to this report.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.