"This is good policy that makes good fiscal sense," Portantino said of the bills. "It's critical during a budget crisis that we look for efficiencies, how we can streamline and make the systems work while having discernable goals and objectives coordinated between the three segments [of public higher education]."
In addition to clearer accountability, AB 2 could save money by eliminating reporting redundancies, he said.
Declining state spending on higher education and rising education costs have hammered UC and Cal State students with unprecedented tuition and fee hikes in recent years — the most drastic of them a 32% (about $2,500) increase for UC students in November 2009.
The UC Board of Regents last month approved another 8 percent student-fee increase to take effect next year.
Ten years ago, the state's general fund contributed $14,750 of UC's $20,490 per-pupil spending, according to UC statistics. Last year, the general fund contributed only $7,570 in per-pupil spending that by then had dropped to $15,820, marking the first time public funding had supported less than half of a UC student's education.
Similar declines in public investment into the Cal State system constitute an apparent erosion of public support that former Lt. Gov. and UC Regent John Garamendi has described as an ongoing privatization of public education.
Portantino said a third proposal — his call for a state constitutional amendment enacting a pay-as-you-go budget system that would force legislators to prioritize needs while preventing spending in excess of state revenues — could also benefit the state's public colleges.
"I would like to see the higher-education system become a priority and receive increased investment. The overall health and welfare of our economy is dependent on having an educated workforce," Portantino said.