Corzine’s budget: The beginning of the end

On March 21, Gov. Jon S. Corzine presented his first budget proposal as the governor of New Jersey.

Among the changes proposed in this budget are: an increase in sales tax to seven percent, a miniscule increase in property tax rebates, an increase in the cigarette and liquor taxes, the elimination of 75 programs and reduced funding of an additional 130 programs. The proposed budget totals $30.9 billion, which is a $3.9 billion increase over last year’s budget.

What I would like to talk about is by far the most striking part of the new governor’s budget. The proposal includes drastic cuts in higher education that will increase your tuition bills. Corzine has proposed an eight percent (or $169 million) cut in higher education aid.

According to College President R. Barbara Gitenstein’s recent e-mail, not only will the state cut the College’s promised $4 million increase in funding, but it will also cut an additional $4 million from what we received last year. The students will get stuck paying this $8 million hole in the school’s projected budget. There are approximately 5,900 students at the College; the average student may see an additional $1,400 on his or her tuition bill next year!

Corzine has also proposed phasing out funding for the Outstanding Recruitment Scholar Program for all incoming students this fall. (This is part of the scholarship many students receive from the state.)

These cuts in education are occurring in a state where the average annual cost to attend a public college is among the highest in the country. The bulk of the cuts in the governor’s budget proposal will come from New Jersey higher education.

The question is WHY?

The answer is simple: it all boils down to politics. As any political science major will tell you, the goals of a politician are to pass legislation and get re-elected. Corzine is looking to keep himself and his party in power by proposing cuts in an area where many of the people affected will not vote him out of office. Seeing as how college-aged voters have the lowest voting rates of any other age group, it was in his best interest to cut higher education.

People are always asking me why I care so much about politics, and the answer is simple: no matter how you look at it, politics affects everyone. This time, it’s going to affect New Jersey college students, and it’s time for students to have their voices heard.

As Michelle McGuinness wrote in her Opinion piece last week, if you care about how much you’re paying for college (which you all should), contact your local councilperson and Corzine and tell them you do not want the state to cut your funding.

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