Early Budget Night Due to Slate Supermajority and Advance Planning
Last Wednesday, with a combination of prior planning and might makes right, A.S. Council passed its 2011-12 executive budget in just over an hour.Written by Editorial Board
21 October 2011
The one-hour figure may not seem like much, but it’s heartstoppingly impressive given that our motley group of campus bureaucrats was once known for 12-hour meetings spent debating exciting topics, such as whether to fund the Loft or not. And when it came to the budget meeting, which determines the annual funding allocations and is the guiding document of our student government, senators, executives and Guardian A.S. columnists alike knew that making it to a Thursday 8 a.m. class was unlikely.
This year’s success can be traced back to two factors, one of them that is out of the control of future aspiring politicians and the other a new idea that should be continued.
First, our current council benefits enormously from being chock-full of members that ran on the same political slate and thus have the same priorities and voting patterns. This time last year, then-A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine was fighting a losing battle in the midst of divided government. Ben Hassine of the Students First! slate was alone in the executive council and struggled to push through her diversity- and tuition-oriented initiatives; the rest of the council were awash with the yellow of Tritons First and were less than impressed with either her ideas or the execution of them.
When it came to the executive budget, Ben Hassine created a draft — presumably the one she thought would be discussed — that implemented an 8-percent across-the-board cut. Dissatisfied council members — including then-Vice President of Student Life Kristina Pham, the second in command, who disagreed with her allocations and created an alternative budget that preserved the funding for student orgs and events such as Bear Garden, while removing the senators’ $10 weekly stipend. They sprung this budget on Ben Hassine on the day of the budget meeting. Frustration ensued. This time around, there was no such repeat; with over 90 percent of council elected from President Alyssa Wing’s Board the Wing slate, these preexisting connections were nothing but an asset to cooperation.
But while the biggest aid to a painless budget is working with people who agree with you, A.S. Council should still be commended for its planning initiatives, especially its open communication and work done before the day of the meeting. Kudos to Vice President of Finance Kevin Hoang for creating a Budget Appropriations Committee dedicated to reviewing past spending trends. His efforts toward compiling descriptions of line items and making presentations regarding the budget ensured that other council members were prepared coming in to discuss the allocations themselves, instead of bogging down the process with questions that could have been answered weeks before. Future councils should take note of the process that made passing the budget as relatively painless as it was on Oct. 12 — while there’s no way to guarantee another single-slate council, the Budget Appropriations Committee should continue working before meetings so less fighting will occur on the council floor.