As the state Legislature prepares to vote on a final 2020-21 budget agreement with Gov. Newsom, one line in the state budget stands out and is quite stunning: “It is the intent of the Legislature that the California State University use its unrestricted reserves to mitigate the impacts of fiscal year-over-fiscal year ongoing General Fund reductions to this item.” The Legislature has – for the first time – directed the CSU to use its unrestricted surplus of approximately $1.5 billion to alleviate budget cuts. Equally important, the Legislature has now formally acknowledged that the CSU surplus funds can be used for “ongoing” expenditures – something the CSU Chancellor’s Office and campus presidents have fervently denied. As last year’s CSUEU-sponsored state audit concluded, during a period when the CSU claimed it needed more state funding, its finance reports were misleading the Legislature by hiding the total amount of surplus funds the CSU accrued from student tuition and salary savings. The CSUEU state audit resulted in greater legislative oversight and budget transparency, but the CSU denied that this money could be used to pay for CSU operations. Now the Legislature has not only directed the CSU to use these surplus funds to mitigate general fund cuts, but has publicly acknowledged that the $1.5 billion surplus can be used to pay for salaries, instruction and operations. The budget agreement will be voted on prior to the new fiscal year beginning on July 1. With the state economy on lockdown since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Newsom had announced in May drastic 10% cuts statewide to counter an estimated $54 billion budget deficit. Through our recent email campaign urging legislators to protect funding for public higher education, CSUEU members helped preserve a 5% CSU budget increase of $199 million – as Gov. Newsom initially proposed in January. However, should the state not receive an additional $14 billion in COVID-19 federal assistance, in October state budget cuts could be “triggered” and the CSU budget will be cut by $500 million (resulting in a net budget reduction of 7.5%, which is less than the 10% budget cut proposed by the Governor). We cannot cut our way to an economic recovery. Our union has joined a broad coalition of labor, education, children, elderly and social justice groups to fight for a budget and recovery plan that invests in communities and promotes equity. As an SEIU affiliate, we are working to increase state revenue via changes to corporate tax laws and capping the maximum allowed for business losses. The state is also home to 165 billionaires – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg alone is worth $72 billion! There is a growing inequality between the incomes of workers and the wealthy, and we believe workers should not be harmed by budget cuts when employers and corporations have more than enough wealth to avoid this outcome. “The status quo just isn’t good enough,” said CSUEU President Neil Jacklin. “We can’t keep putting the burden on communities of color and working families who are disproportionately vulnerable to the challenges of COVID-19 and a recession. We must rethink whose labor generates the great wealth of our state and nation, and how they ought to be justly compensated.” CSUEU members will have an opportunity this summer to participate in an exciting digital campaign to make our voices – and priorities – heard in the state capitol. Stay tuned!