State legislators pledge support for protest at UC Berkeley

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and state Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, lauded student efforts to fight budget cuts and expressed a clear willingness to support the student movement at a forum Monday night.

Speaking to an audience of about 35 students, Skinner and Hancock recalled how past protests impacted them. They entertained the idea of attending Wednesday’s day of action.

“We want to back you every step of the way,” Hancock said to the audience.

Both Skinner and Hancock also said that if “things get tough” at the day of action, they would be on the phone with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

“I will be your champion,” Skinner said, offering her full support to the students.

While affirming their support for the student movement, both Skinner and Hancock spent time elucidating what they referred to as structural causes of the state’s budget crisis.

Both Hancock and Skinner voted for the current fiscal year state budget, which has reduced state funding for the university by $650 million so far. A further $100 million could be cut from the university’s funding if trigger cuts included in the budget are implemented.

Both legislators emphasized the importance of educating the public on budgetary issues.

“We need a shared base of information,” Hancock said. “What you need to do is make people care, make them understand.”

Still, both Skinner and Hancock acknowledged that large-scale education about those structural problems will be challenging.

In fact, during her own talk, Hancock shied away from discussing a certain tax loophole policy because she said the details were “too complicated.”

The legislators frequently complimented ASUC External Affairs Vice President Chief Deputy of State Affairs Jeremy Pilaar’s extensive presentation — which began the forum by detailing changing funding amounts for the UC system and decreasing revenue for the state government — as an excellent example of something that should be repeated throughout campus.

Pilaar spent time examining the impact of Proposition 13 — which limited the amount of revenue the state could collect from property taxes — on the state’s income. He proposed the repeal of the cap on corporate property taxes that he claimed could raise anywhere from “$8 billion to $10 billion.”

The point of the forum was “to start the conversation,” Pilaar said.

“It will start as a murmur and gradually grow,” he said.

For students like senior Pegah Zardoost, the forum provided an opportunity to get into the budget cuts discussion after a year spent abroad.

Kate Boden, a freshman, who had never before had the opportunity to interact with Skinner or Hancock, said she felt, “very encouraged” by their appearance.

“Alone, students can only do so much,” she said.