On September 16, the Connecticut General Assembly shocked the state by passing a Republican budget, despite Democrats holding a slim majority of seats in the House and a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Governor Malloy vetoed the budget, and the legislature declined to override his veto. That means Connecticut is still without a budget, though some lawmakers are asking to use the legislature’s bill as the starting point for further negotiations. Yet according to officials at the University of Connecticut, that budget would have decimated our state’s flagship university.
According to an article on UConn Today, the two-year budget reduces state funding by a whopping $308,827,301. Officials say that a cut of this magnitude means “campuses would close, financial aid would be slashed, and thousands of jobs in the private economy would be lost.” This may sound over-the-top, but not when you consider that this $308 million cut equates to a 29% reduction in state support for UConn by 2019:
Students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and supporters of UConn have joined together to fight back against these cuts. Over 1,000 people attended a rally on campus, and many more are sharing their support online using the hashtag #SaveUConn.
As a former president of the UConn student body (2011-2012), I stand with my fellow Huskies to support the University in this time of crisis. State support for UConn has been steadily declining since the 1990s, and this latest budget drastically accelerates the pace of that decline. The inevitable tuition hikes will make it more expensive for students to get an education, saddling them with even more debt after graduation — if they’re even able to, since program cuts will limit access to the courses they need for their degree.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While legislators are faced with some tough decisions, they continue to ignore a source of revenue that would more than make up for these huge cuts to UConn: regulating marijuana like alcohol.
Legislative Democrats predict that regulating and taxing marijuana for adults 21 and older would raise $180 million per year. Based on the experience of other states, and the potential size of the market in Connecticut, this is a conservative estimate. But even it would be enough to completely restore the legislature’s cuts to UConn, which average $154 million per year.
This isn’t a radical proposal. Eight states have already begun to regulate marijuana, including Massachusetts and Maine. Next July, Connecticut residents who are 21 or older will be able to drive to Massachusetts and purchase marijuana legally. They will pay a 20% tax, which will go towards funding UMass rather than UConn. Marijuana taxes are already flowing to the University of Washington, which UConn recently tied for #18 in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of public universities. We won’t hold this rank for long if legislators continue to ignore the tax revenue that marijuana could bring.
Of course, tax revenue isn’t the only reason to legalize marijuana for adults. It would also create thousands of jobs, improve public health, and protect our youth better than prohibition. If legislators want to #SaveUConn, they should #RegulateMarijuanaLikeAlcohol.