Gov. Schwarzenegger renewed his commitment to restore funding for higher education during a town hall appearance in Fresno co-sponsored by California State University, Fresno.

The event, in which 15 central San Joaquin Valley residents asked the governor about a range of issues, was taped for broadcast July 17 on Univision network California affiliates.

The town hall was produced by the San Joaquin Valley Gubernatorial Forum as part of its effort to help enlighten voters – especially Latinos – about current political affairs and candidates and their impact on the region. Members of the forum are Fresno State, Univision’s Channel 21 (Fresno), the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the city of Fresno and the Fresno Bee newspaper.

Among the questioners were:

  • Fresno State Associated Students Inc. President Pedro Ramirez, who asked if the strong support for public higher education would be reflected in the final California budget. The governor answered that restoring cuts made in 2009-10 and providing additional funds to open as many enrollment opportunities as possible is a cornerstone of his 2010-11 budget.
  • Fresno State student Yekta Karimi, an intern at the Youth Leadership Institute, who asked about adding jobs for young workers in the Valley. The governor said reforms in job-training tax credits for businesses, streamlining construction permit processes and limiting lawsuit awards would help stimulate job-development statewide. The Valley also would benefit from greater business diversity, Schwarzenegger said, rather than relying so heavily on agriculture.
  • Fresno State alumnus Dr. Peter Mehas, a California State University trustee, asked for reassurances about state support of the 23-campus CSU. Schwarzenegger said he is calling for reforms to establish education as a budgeting priority, entitled to a set percentage of the state budget to help with long-term planning to meet the state’s needs.
The governor discusses higher education with Fresno State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs William Covino and Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Oliaro.

The governor also discussed higher education funding during a reception following the town hall with a Fresno State delegation that included Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs William Covino, Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Oliaro, Vice President for Administration Cynthia Teniente-Matson and Associate Provost Ellen Junn.

The governor’s budget proposes restoring $305 million to the CSU’s 2010-11 budget and adding $60.6 million for enrollment growth. CSU would be able to serve another 29,000 students – 1,500 at Fresno State – if included in a final budget that is reasonably timely.

The governor also answered questions about immigration, economic development, water and ways to help small businesses during the one-hour forum.

After remarks preceding the town hall meeting, Schwarzenegger signed an extension of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, obligating his successor to considering the region’s needs in governance. The partnership brings together state officials and Valley leaders working on the region’s key challenges to advocate for improvements in the eight-county region.

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