Former Sen. Bob Graham wants Florida university students to get angry.
The former senator and Florida governor has spoken out vehemently against the legislature’s budget cuts to the State University System, totaling $300 million.
Now, Graham wants university administrators to make students aware of the impact the cuts will have on them, and he wants students to make their voices heard in Tallahassee.
“This is a disaster for Florida,” Graham said of the legislature’s decision to cut so much money from university budgets, forcing schools to dip into their reserves.
Furthermore, he said, students aren’t concerned enough about how the budget cuts will affect them.
Although he hopes to get faculty and alumni on board with lobbying Gov. Rick Scott to veto the cuts, “I think the students have the most at risk,” Graham said.
To get legislators to listen, university administrators first need to get the word out to students about exactly what the budget cuts will mean at each university, he said. Then, students need to get involved by writing to the governor.
On the first point, Graham said he’s seen little movement.
“I don’t see any evidence that [administrators have] done anything about it,” he said.
If Scott approves the budget cuts, Graham said, it could be more difficult for Florida universities to borrow funds in the future. Higher tuition and fees are already being used to supplant state funding, similar to the way lottery money was.
Part of the funding problem in Florida is that legislators don’t have their priorities in order, said Graham, who believes the education system is the most important entity that requires state money and should be the last to take budget cuts.
Rather, he said, Florida must eliminate state tax codes that allow preferential treatment of special interests, such as cigarette companies that receive as much as $200 million in tax breaks.
If you have to make a choice between cutting the State University System’s budget by $300 million or discontinuing a tax break for a company that sells cigarettes, Graham said, there shouldn’t be a question about what’s better for the public.