BY ALICIA ROBINSON AND DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITERS
arobinson@pe.com; dgang@pe.com

Published: 02 March 2012 06:55 PM

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he’s not prepared to support funding the UC Riverside medical school at a time when the state still faces a $9 billion deficit.

Brown asserted that position during a talk at The Press-Enterprise that ranged from his tax proposal to high-speed rail, pension reform and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

“I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not ruling it in right now,” Brown said of funding for the medical school. “We’ve got to get our house in order before we expand.”

While acknowledging he hasn’t looked at the school’s merits, Brown said he is less inclined to fund it when the University of California regents haven’t committed any of the system’s state funding to the school.

The medical school has been in the works for years and originally was set to open this year. But so far, UCR officials have not been able to secure ongoing state funding.

UCR leaders are pushing ahead with private fundraising — the goal is $10 million a year for the next decade — and hope to open the school next year, but with only 50 students to start. To be viable long term, though, the school must have ongoing state support, UCR officials have said.

The money has yet to be included in any of the governor’s budget proposals.

Brown’s comments about the medical school go against what Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said during a visit to Riverside last week.

Feinstein sent a letter to Brown urging him to support the medical school, and during a speech before the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, she urged local officials to contact the governor’s office on the issue.

“I am going to need your help to call on our great governor and say, ‘Jerry, you’ve got to find $15 million,’” she said. “It can be found.”

UCR Chancellor Timothy White said in a written statement Friday that the medical school would be the UC system’s first in more than 40 years and would be an economic stimulus to the region.

“The governor’s comment is obviously not one about the need for, or merits of, the new school of medicine at UCR,” White said. “We understand that the state has been through very difficult economic times, and that Gov. Brown must make many hard choices.

“However, there is a well-documented need for more physicians and better health care access in the Inland Empire,” he said. “Even as the economy improves, that need will remain.”

TAXES, RAILS AND PENSIONS

During his discussion with reporters and editors at The Press-Enterprise, Brown said more budget cuts — automatic reductions based on revenue projections — will come if voters reject his tax measure in November.

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