Monday, November 02, 2009

Tell Me Again What the Stimulus Money Was For?

I'm in Fort Collins, Colorado this week, visiting family. Fort Collins is a college town, a nice town, but a bastion of Leftist liberalism if there ever was one.* I glanced at the Sunday paper yesterday morning. A glance is usually more than I can take. Here's the first article that caught my eye, a headline on the front page of the Fort Collins Coloradoan: "Governor Putting Higher Ed in a Precarious Spot."

The article tells how Colorado's Governor Bill Ritter is going to balance the state budget (remember from a previous post, this is a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, somewhere south of 5%). It turns out that Colorado has a $271.4 million deficit; the Governor and the state government brain trust got together and decided that the budget cuts will include a 40 percent reduction in state spending for higher educaiton. That's 4-zero: 40%.

Here's the money quote (pun intended) of the article: That money is expected to be backfilled by federal stimulus dollars. . . . The tenuous part is that the backfill [don't you just love government-speak: "backfill"--who sits around thinking up clever words like these?] requires a waiver from the federal government. The state is required to maintain higher education funding at $555.3 million in order to qualify for federal stimulus money. But Ritter's proposal cuts deeper, to about $330 million, which requires a waiver from the federal government. . . . That waiver has not yet been approved.

A waiver? So let me see if I understand this: The state of Colorado had a budget shortfall. In order to make up for some of that shortfall, the Governor is slashing 40% from the higher education budget. Then the federal taxpayer (which includes me, in Missouri) will give STIMULUS money to Colorado to make up for cutting Colorado's budget for higher education. Colorado can only do this by not playing by the rules, since they have cut more money from higher education than they are supposed to in order to qualify for stimulus money. But not to worry, they can get around the rule by applying for a waiver. Once the waiver is in place, then our federal dollars can be spent for the 40% of higher education that Colorado should be paying for, but isn't.

I love this line in the last paragraph: Higher education institutions are a strong element in Colorado's economic engine; they draw research dollars into the state, support job creation, and foster an educated work force, which will be essential when the economy recovers. So while evidently believing in the value of higher education, or at least paying lip service to it, the State of Colorado isn't willing to pay for it, but instead will cut 40% out of the budget for education, hoping all the while that they can circumvent the rules of the game and have federal stimulus dollars pick up at least part of the tab. And by the way, anybody care to guess what happens to higher education in Colorado when those federal stimulus dollars run out?

Am I missing something? Is this how we all understood that the stimulus money would be used? Are these the "shovel ready" jobs we were promised? Well, they do use the word "backfill," so maybe that counts. Hey, here's a thought: Colorado residents, why don't you pay for your damn higher education; either that, or for out-of-state residents who are now paying for almost 50% of your higher education budget, let us send our kids to Colorado schools, and you can charge us in-state tuition.

Am I the only one who thinks this country has lost its collective mind? Do "the rules" mean anything any more?

*The image at the top is Old Main on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, by the way. That's where I went to school. Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Yes, I know the difference, I just like that picture of the C.U. campus.

1 comment:

nobackindown said...

shame on you for traveling to colorado without consulting your favorite brother first ...