Why Cal students should vote on Election Day

Kira Walker/Staff

My name is Nadesan Permaul. I teach as adjunct faculty in rhetoric and political science and until last year was a career administrator at UC Berkeley. Iarrived on the campus in the fall of 1967 as a freshman and have been privileged to be part of this community since then. I am writing to urge all students on campus to be sure to vote on Proposition 30 in the coming election. Why?

My students have told me that there is significant cynicism about elections because of the distortions of candidates and their short-term interest in the electorate that fades the moment the election is over. But in this election, you will be voting on an issue that directly impacts your education and will affect you within weeks of the election. If Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to address the systemic budget shortfalls for the next seven years fails, the University of California’s budget will be reduced by $250 million dollars, and tuition could rise immediately, midyear, and beyond.

The measure is a public policy with a limited lifespan: a four-year increase in the state sales tax of .25 percent of one cent and a seven-year increase in taxes on personal income for annual incomes more than $250,000. A description of the initiative’s provisions aims at accountability and transparency:

“Allocates temporary tax revenues 89 percent to K–12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges.
Bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are to be spent.
Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments.”

You can also see the argument for the return on the investment from these crucial funds to the state of California.

Conservatives and progressives can argue ceaselessly about the whether taxes are good public policy or not.  There are thoughtful positions on each side regarding short-term and long-term consequences.  But there is no other short-term measure to preserve the quality of higher education in California from reductions if new revenue is not found to address overall state budget shortfalls. The governor has proposed serious reductions to spending already, and no doubt more will be forthcoming. But for each of you, the rise in tuition and the loss of services will be palpable unless you act. There are an estimated 36,000 students at UC Berkeley and a total of 234,000 in 2011 data across the UC system. That does not include 132,000 faculty and staff at all of the campuses.

Together, we are a formidable voting constituency. Around the world, there are millions of persons who would be grateful to be able to vote resources toward education and their future livelihoods if they could. We are fortunate to have that opportunity. Whether out of self-interest or on behalf of your citizens, I urge you to vote “yes” on Prop. 30. Talk to your fellow students, to staff and to faculty about its importance. It may be the most direct impact you will make on your future in the near term.

Nadesan Permaul is a UC Berkeley alum and teaches in rhetoric and political Science. He was also the former director of the ASUC Auxiliary.

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