Young people are determined to make their voices heard in the upcoming November election on the issue of ever-increasing costs of higher education. The ASUC has already helped register thousands of current UC Berkeley students to vote, stressing the importance of one major ballot initiative: Proposition 30.
However, any student who is truly concerned about the long-term security of our public higher education system would be seriously misguided in thinking Gov. Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30 would do anything to help re-prioritize public higher education in California.
First, the facts: Brown and Democrats in Sacramento vow to gut California public schools by $6 billion if voters do not approve of the sales and income tax hikes in Prop. 30. There is no guarantee that any single university would receive a certain amount of additional revenue generated by Prop. 30.
The language and intent of Prop. 30 should be a serious wake-up call to students. By supporting Prop. 30, students tell Sacramento it is acceptable to use public education as a bargaining chip while offering students absolutely nothing in return.
Recently, President Barack Obama referred to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax plan as “a sketchy deal” since Gov. Romney will not outline the exact details of his proposal before the election. Those politics aside, if Romney’s plan is “sketchy” because he won’t list every single loophole and deduction in his plan, what do you call a budget passed only by Democrats in Sacramento that provides trigger cuts to education unless voters agree to raise taxes — with
none of those tax revenues going back to public education if passed? Very sketchy.
It is no coincidence that Brown and Democrats are increasingly manipulating students’ emotions to fund their own agendas in Sacramento. By definition, most students are low propensity voters, since most college-aged students haven’t been eligible to vote long enough to be considered high-propensity. Most students likely weren’t paying close attention to Sacramento budgetary politics when they were 16-years-old, and politicians get an entirely fresh crop of students every four years whose ignorance they can try taking advantage of.
If voting students knew more about the perpetual political games and broken “raise taxes” mentality in Sacramento, they would be far less likely to support Brown’s “sketchy” Prop. 30.
Take the 2009 state budget for example. Republican lawmakers sat down with Democrats and agreed to a temporary increase to the sales tax rate in exchange for some progress to budget reform. Democrats were certain if we raised the sales tax statewide by 1 percentage point for two years, it would be enough to pull the government out of the ditch and reinvest in things we care about, like schools.
The 2009 budget deal raised an estimated $12 billion in additional tax revenue. However, just three months after the deal was signed, the UC Board of Regents announced a 32 percent increase to student fees. Remember how these semesterly “Support Public Education” walk-out demonstrations first started? Even after Democrats got the higher taxes they wanted, students fail to receive the investment.
In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Republican legislators in Sacramento proposed budgets that sustained funding commitments to public higher education without raising taxes. In that same time, Democrats in Sacramento have only offered higher taxes and lower funding to public education.
Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30 raises sales taxes by an estimated 3.5 percent of the current rate, up to 7.5 percent statewide. Effective sales tax rates may be higher depending on the county. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates Prop. 30 would raise $6.8 billion in new tax revenues. But where is the $12 billion Democrats asked for three years ago? And where can students realistically expect new taxes from Prop. 30 to go?
For the first time last year, students paid more for their UC education than did the state of California.
Sacramento has a serious problem with setting priorities, and students who support Prop. 30 have a serious problem with their political memory.
What have Democrats done in the decades they have controlled the Legislature to protect public higher education? And when Democrats can’t get Republicans to raise taxes through the Legislature, they turn to the voters, even though voters have firmly rejected every recent tax increase. And remember, there are a lot more registered Democrats in California than Republicans.
Our chronic budgetary problems in California will not be fixed by blaming the minority party, nor will they be solved by mindlessly raising taxes on economic activity. Students can only move forward in protecting the interests of public higher education by first refusing to be used as bargaining chips in Sacramento’s political games.
Rather than making their voices heard, students who support Prop. 30 are setting a dangerous precedent that allows politicians to use students as leverage any time they want to advance their own special interests in Sacramento.
Shawn Lewis is the vice chair of the California College Republicans and the former president of the Berkeley College Republicans.
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