Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released the 2010-2011 budget, a $82.9 billion dollar plan that will eliminate the state’s $19.9 billion dollar revenue shortfall by making cuts, on Friday Jan. 8.

If passed, higher education, one of the few items in the plan that received an increase in funding compared to the previous year, will receive a $224.5 million increase from last year, in addition to a restoration of $370 million of last year’s cuts.  The $370 million of proposed restoration funds falls short of the $913 million that the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) requested.  To take effect, the budget plan would have to pass both houses of the legislature by a two-thirds vote.

Earlier this week, Schwarzenegger also proposed a new constitutional amendment to cement funding for higher education and prisons from the state’s general fund.

“We can no longer afford to cut higher education … I will protect education funding in this budget,” Schwarzenegger said in his final State of the State address to the California legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 6. “Never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education.”

In response to Schwarzenegger’s proposed constitutional amendment, as well as his plan to increase education spending for the fiscal year of 2010-11, UC President Mark Yudof said in a statement, “These restorations, in addition to the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment earlier this week, are clear evidence that the governor understands the vital role public higher education plays in California.”

The governor’s proposed amendment would cap the contributions to the California prison system from the state’s budget at a maximum of 7 percent while allocating a minimum of 10 percent of the general fund to higher education.

Last year, California prisons received 11 percent of the state’s general fund while 7.5 percent went to higher education.

To make these cuts, the governor proposed a plan to allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to contract with private corporations to make up for the lost funding.

“If California’s prisons were privately run, it would save us billions of dollars a year,” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s billions of dollars that could go back into higher education, where it belongs and where it better serves our future.”

The trade of funding between prisons and universities must first be approved by a two-thirds vote of both the California State Senate and the California State Assembly in order to be placed on the ballot. A majority of California voters would then need to pass the initiative in the November election for the amendment to be added to the California Constitution. If passed, the two spending limits would become effective in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

In an interview with the New York Times, Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff Susan Kennedy said, “Those protests on the UC campuses were the tipping point. … Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”