Proposition 30, a November ballot measure proposed by Governor Jerry Brown, seeks to increase sales tax by one-quarter of a cent for four years and income tax for taxpayers making over $250,000 for seven years. The successful passage of this tax initiative will designate state revenue to California’s education system, yet only ensures the bare-bone minimum to the UC system. The Highlander Editorial Board endorses Prop 30 because it offers the temporary, but necessary fiscal relief after years of consistent state disinvestment to higher education.
Dating back to the Great Recession, state disinvestment in the UC has amounted to nearly a billion dollars. No longer can students take a backseat to other priorities of the state, which includes an increase in austerity measures for the sake of a balanced budget. Originating from a hybrid between the Millionaires Tax and Governor Brown’s first tax initiative, Prop 30 is a short-term solution, yet it is a step in the right direction: halting the salting of the fiscal slashings endured by the UC system.
Alternately, the majority of state revenues raised from Prop 30 will be deposited and secured into an Education Protection Account (EPA). Specifically purposed towards funding the K-12 system and California Community Colleges, local school boards will have the ability to use funds under their own discretion.
The passage of Governor Brown’s 2012-13 California Budget back in June was based on assumed projections and the authorization of predicted tax measures—such as Prop 30—due to the lack of sufficient funds in the state’s general coffers. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, an estimated “balanced budget” is mandated by Proposition 58 in the California Constitution before state funds can be distributed that year. To provide further support to these contingency measures that is meant to balance the state budget, Governor Brown will enact a $6 billion budget cut on education if Prop 30 fails to pass.
Back in July, the UC Board of Regents voted to rally behind the state budget and the passage of Governor Brown’s Prop 30, which will halt $250 million in “trigger cuts” and a 20.3 percent increase in tuition, equivalent to a $2,400 rise in annual UC tuition. Concurrently, the regents enacted a systemwide freeze with an expected tuition-buyout of $125 million for the 2013-14 academic year, under the condition that Prop 30 goes into effect.
With the future of the UC so contingent upon the proposition’s passage, the situation can be understandably maddening, but Californians have been dealt a harsh hand and must make harsh choices. Financial cuts to the UC have been clotted by cost-saving measures, but critical damages may potentially occur if this initiative becomes overrun by no votes and driven off the fiscal cliff in 2013.
Based on previous propositions enacted by Californians, certain programs have a funding minimum that must be fulfilled by the state. Under Proposition 98, a mandated minimum is dedicated to K-12 and higher education, according to the California Department of Finance. The passing of Prop 30 as a state constitutional amendment would also apply under the same principle, which dedicates a legal minimum of state revenue to education. Too often has education been targeted, since it has the least protections and is dependent on state funding, compared to federally-mandated programs such as Medicare or corrections, which are often earmarked in a state’s budget.
The competing tax measure, Proposition 38, has also increased the failure rates of all current tax initiatives on the November ballot. The California Constitution states that all competing tax measures will undergo a majority rule vote. Unlike its fellow counterpart, Prop 30 was written with the state budget in mind. The 2012-13 California Budget was balanced under the assumption that Prop 30 would pass in November. If an alternate tax measure, such as Prop 38, is successful, the trigger cuts will still go into effect and provide no funding guarantee to California’s higher education system.
With the California sales tax being one of the highest in the United States, many taxpayers are weary about passing such an initiative, which will raise both sales and income taxes. However, failure for Prop 30 to pass will reduce K-12 education by $5.4 billion, equivalent to a loss of three academic weeks, and $500 million to public universities, according the California Progress Report site.
With the student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion this year, both students and families have felt the pinch and deserve to catch their breath. Despite this fact, more than three-quarters of undergraduates who were surveyed believed in the investment of a college education, stated a national study conducted by financial group, Sallie Mae. Taxpayers must also support the same belief to endure the pangs of tax increases for the sake fiscal funding to education.
Exposoed to the political limelight, vocally embraced by most of California’s education system and attracting political participation from once-apathetic college students, Prop 30 does not truly provide a full-fledged sustainable funding model for the UC, but is still the best option on the upcoming ballot. Without Proposition 30, California’s educational system will further spiral into a chasm of faculty furloughs, increased tuition and civil strife from university students who have had the door of opportunities closed on them. California’s voters should keep that door open and vote yes on Proposition 30 come Nov. 6.