Brown tax initiative could affect student voter turnout in November election

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The threat of a UC and CSU tuition hike in the middle of the 2012-13 academic year could increase college student voter turnout in the November election for those wanting to cast a vote in favor of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

With California’s budget deficit at nearly $16 billion, the tuition costs of public higher education remain highly contingent on the approval of Brown’s tax initiative by California voters. The initiative would fund education and public safety services by increasing personal income taxes by 3 percent on the state’s income earners of more than $250,000 for the next seven years and by raising the sales tax by one-quarter percent for all Californians over the next four years.

The initiative, scheduled to be voted on in November as Proposition 30, would raise $8.5 billion for the state budget this fiscal year, with the majority of the tax revenue going toward public education.

According to Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting agenda, if the tax initiative does not pass on the November ballot, the state will receive a series of trigger cuts that would make a 20.3 percent mid-year tuition increase likely. This would mean the proposed tuition buyout that would give the UC and CSU systems $125 million for a tuition freeze — included on the recently passed state budget — would not be available for the upcoming school year.

UC President Mark Yudof released a statement in June saying that UC students, faculty, staff, alumni and regents have already played a crucial role in persuading the state to increase funding for higher education.

According to survey results released by the Public Policy Institute of California in May, the majority of likely California voters ages 18 to 34 — the age group associated with most UC students — have already suggested they favor the initiative.

The institute found that 82 percent of young California voters said they would vote yes on the initiative, with 16 percent saying they would vote no and 3 percent undecided.

Claudia Magana, president of the UC Student Association, said the organization plans on raising awareness on the initiative’s significance, and that it hopes to get 45,000 students registered to vote before the November ballot.

“This is really what determines how much we are going to pay next year. I would hope a lot of students will be engaged,” Magana said. “It may not be the most perfect initiative, but it addresses the situation of revenue and what needs to be done.”

Yudof and UC Academic Council Chair Robert Anderson have already said they recommended the regents endorse the tax initiative because of the university’s high stakes on the measure.

“If the Governor’s ballot measure fails and the additional cut is triggered, it would be devastating to our campuses … ,” Anderson said in a letter to Yudof.. “It is imperative that the Board of Regents formally endorse the Governor’s ballot measure.”

The board is scheduled to vote on whether to endorse the initiative at its meeting this Wednesday on the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

UC Student Regent-designate Cinthia Flores said the UC system’s endorsement of the initiative will be a subject of much debate at the meeting.

“The biggest contention is whether the board is ready to take a stance on a very partisan measure,” Flores said. “It has the potential to be a monumental decision.”