On March 28, the UC Board of Regents gathered at the UCSF Mission Bay for a three-day meeting to discuss the framework of a multi-year funding plan with the state to provide financial stability for the 2012-2013 UC Budget. UC President Mark Yudof announced that he would endorse Governor Brown’s tax initiative and encouraged the regents to also rally behind the measure. As many as 40 student protesters came to voice their opinions and questioned whether the tax initiative would allocate enough funding toward higher education. Three of the protesters were arrested for failure to disperse from an unlawful assembly.
Although the multi-year plan remains in its early stages, UC officials have asserted that the plan is heavily dependent on the outcome of political decisions—especially from the November ballot. A series of yearly tuition increases are almost certain under most models, although the most optimistic (from the view of students) would see only modest increases in tuition. The models are reflective of the information reviewed during last quarter’s town hall meeting hosted by Chancellor White, in which he presented scenarios involving yearly tuition increases. However, there is also discussion of an effort to delay any tuition increases during the 2012-2013 year. “We have been talking explicitly about a buyout of a 2012-2013 tuition increase,” stated Dan Dooley, senior vice president for external relations for UC.
“In my view, it represents the best opportunity I’ve seen in my four years in California for the state to clamber out of a sinkhole of fiscal uncertainty and move forward into a better, more prosperous future,” stated Yudof, who remained “cautiously optimistic” about the tax initiative. The revenue for the tax measure would come from a temporary sales tax increase of a quarter-cent per dollar and an increase in the income tax of those earning more than $250,000 per year. The initiative is expected to raise billions of dollars for education and other state services. According to Vice President of Budget and Capital Resources Patrick Lenz, if the tax measure is not approved then the UC system could face a $200 million mid-year trigger cut. In a UCOP press release, university officials clarified that it was legal for regents to take a stand on ballot measures. Supporters of Governor Brown’s tax initiative will have until June 28 to submit more than 1 million signatures in order to place the initiative on the November ballot.
At one point during the meeting, protesters attempted to extend the public comments session by staging a “spring break beach party” and declared themselves “spring broke.” The demonstration was meant to denounce the regents for hosting the meeting during spring break—a period when most students were away from campus. Amidst the swimwear and beach balls, the regents began exiting the room and police officers subsequently gave protestors three warnings to vacate the premises before declaring an “unlawful assembly.”
In the aftermath, three UCLA students were arrested for obstructing an officer, failing to disperse, using violence against law enforcement and for “taking by means of a riot any person from the lawful custody of a peace officer.” Authorities said that one student then pushed a police officer in a corridor and two others interfered with his arrest. Students have denied the allegations of pushing and have criticized the police response as an overreaction, particularly in regards to the piling of officers on top of individuals being arrested. Numerous protesters expressed their perception of the governor’s tax measure as a temporary solution. This view was elaborated upon by UC Riverside Professor of Economics Victor Lippit, who believes that serious reform in California would involve repealing Proposition 13, changing the initiative system and returning budget and taxation votes to a majority vote system.
“Over time, California needs a complete makeover of its taxation system. The current system already relies excessively on taxing the very high income earners, especially by treating capital gains as ordinary income… California has had to rely much more heavily than other states on income taxes, which distorts incentives to work or even to live in the state,” stated Lippit in an interview with the Highlander. “Also, the voter initiative system in California was meant to democratize the creation of laws, but in fact has often done just the opposite… Although taxes should remain progressive, the entire state should participate in paying for the public services that benefit all of us.”
The next regents meeting will take place in Sacramento from May 15 to 17.