Illustration by Louise Leong

When it comes to the UC system’s budgetary crisis, any news is typically bad news. Consider the $620.8 million fee hikes imposed on students in 2009 and 2010, the $28 million one-time cuts dealt to UC Santa Cruz staff and faculty, and the rapid extinction of “non-standard” programs such as UCSC’s American studies major.

The UC regents have come to view the budgetary crisis as gangrenous, hacking away at the UC system until either it dies or the crisis ends, whichever comes first.

But our financial woes as UC students are closely tied to, if not exacerbated by, the state’s ongoing budget crisis. Yet the give-and-take relationship between the UC and the state bears more resemblance to Adrian Lyne’s “Fatal Attraction” than Rob Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally.”

In a plan to close the state’s budget deficit, the $305 million that former Gov. Schwarzenegger restored to the UC system in 2010 was trumped by the $500 million cut made by Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown’s self-described “tough budget for tough times” additionally included a $400 million slash from the California Community Colleges system and $500 million from the California State University system, all part of $8.2 billion worth of cuts made in total.

And that’s only half of the bill the state owes.

Brown’s plan to close the budget gap also included extending taxes that were set to expire in June. The extensions, which included a 0.25 percent increase on personal income tax rates, a 1 percent boost in the retail-sales levy, and a reduction in the state’s annual child tax credit from $309 to $99, would have helped close the state’s budget deficit by roughly $12 billion.

Barring the approval of the tax extensions, the burden to make up the $12 billion would rest on a second swing of the axe — further cuts to health, education, and other public services. For the UC system, this could potentially make our $500 million cut into a hefty $1 billion.

In the last meeting of the UC regents, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stressed that further cuts to the UC budget would all but capsize the higher education system.

“We have no model to accommodate that $1 billion,” Birgeneau said. “It would devastate our staff and faculty.”

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal supported Birgeneau’s sentiments.

“There is no way we cannot cut academic enterprises at this point,” Blumenthal said. “The amount of our campus’s cut is equal to the funding of our largest department.”

Throwing their support behind allowing voters to vote on the tax extensions are over 250 local school boards, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and the Bay Area Council, which represents many of the biggest and well-known businesses in northern California.

Barring the ballot initiative, however, are four votes from Republicans — two in the House, two in the Senate — in the state legislature. Republicans presented the governor with a list of 53 demands, which included additional budgetary cuts, the elimination of redevelopment agencies, and limiting legal damages that can be sought in environmental lawsuits filed against businesses, among other things.

With the Republicans unwilling to budge on their list of demands, the hammer dropped. Negotiations to put the tax extensions on the ballot have crumbled and with it, my faith in the California state legislature. The legislature has chosen not to let its citizenry decide whether our colleges are worth keeping.

In his Tuesday announcement, Brown said he was committed to “coming up with honest and real solutions to our budget crisis.” But what’s left are legally questionable maneuvers to force the extensions on the ballot or an all-cut budget with virtually no chance of passing the legislature.

In retrospect, I’m reminded of the character Corey Giles from “The Crucible,” having stone upon stone piled atop his chest in a peine forte et dure (hard and forceful punishment). Unable to move, unable to breathe, Giles had no choice but to staunchly bear the pain from being increasingly crushed. In a morbidly appropriate context, his last words — perhaps ours as well — before his chest caved in were grim.

“More weight.”