Robert Reich, federal and state politicians make final push for Prop. 30

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner speaks during a rally for Higher Education held on Savio Steps on Sproul Plaza.
Randy Adam Romero/Staff
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner speaks during a rally for Higher Education held on Savio Steps on Sproul Plaza.

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Campus Democrats made one final push for Proposition 30 in a rally on Sproul Plaza on the eve of Election Day Monday.

The rally, which drew around 200 people, was organized by the Cal Berkeley Democrats and the ASUC. Prominent figures at the rally, including campus professor Robert Reich, Rep. Barbara Lee and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, urged students to vote and highlighted the significance of students’ role in passing Prop. 30.

Robert Reich, a campus professor and former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, began the rally by addressing the cynicism toward politics common among college students.

“Voting is the privilege of doing what you feel is right,” Reich said. “Proposition 30 raises taxes on the citizens best able to pay them and provides funding to those less capable — a worthy trade-off.”

Crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown, Prop. 30 would raise income taxes on the wealthiest Californians on a sliding scale and increase the sales tax by a quarter of a percentage point for four years to fund public education.

If voters fail to approve the measure Tuesday, the university is set to lose $250 million this fiscal year. As a result, students could see a tuition hike of up to 20.3 percent in January — an estimated $2,400 increase for students.

“The people who would be taxed have reaped the benefits of the UC, and it’s time for them to give back,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi at the rally.

California State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley, said the heightened sales tax amounted to “an extra quarter-penny on a cheeseburger.”

Champions for the proposition also noted the symbolic implications of the measure, saying that passing Prop. 30 would represent a vote of confidence in the UC system.

“We’ve disinvested in education in the last 20 years,” said Lockyer, who founded the campus CalDems group in 1960. “We need to reverse that trend and see that we’re doing the very best for our future by continuing these investments.”

Conversely, Berkeley College Republicans Executive Director Shawn Lewis, who answered questions about opposition to the measure, criticized the proposition as a means to manipulate students into voting for legislation that will not necessarily allocate funding to schools. Lewis said the budget cuts are only necessary because of a state budget crafted by Democrats, deeming Prop. 30 a way for Democrats to “save them from themselves.”

“Students are being used, and their fear is being used to pass this tax increase that won’t even directly benefit them,” he said. “(Democrats) are projecting billions of dollars on the high-speed rail — why cut schools?”

Lewis added that the absence of speakers against Prop. 30 at the rally hampered its educational value.

Brown has said the reason higher education often ends up on the chopping block is because it is one of the few parts of the budget that the state can cut without losing additional federal funding.

“If Prop. 30 fails, it would be such a terrible slide backwards,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates at the rally. “This is an opportunity to encourage people to reinvest in UC and improve our education system — the foundation of our economy.”

Contact Virgie Hoban at [email protected].