UC Regents vote to endorse Brown’s November tax initiative

Sarah Brennan/File
UC President Mark Yudolf (center) will be retiring at the end of August.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents voted Wednesday to officially endorse Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, and in doing so affirmed the tuition freeze afforded by the $125.4 million tuition buyout included in the recently passed state budget.

If passed, the initiative would provide the UC with $125 million to prevent the need for a  20.3 percent tuition increase in the middle of next year. If the initiative does not pass, the university will lose that money as well as the tuition buyout, and it will face an overall budget shortfall of $375.4 million, according to the meeting agenda item.

The board voted to support the initiative, but not before several regents expressed concerns that if voters do not approve it, the university would almost surely face tuition increases, currently approximated to be 20.3 percent of the present tuition amount.

“To think that we’ll face a $350 million cut and not have to raise fees?” said Regent Richard Blum, referring to the combined shortfall the UC will face if the November initiative does not pass. “You’re in a dream world.”

Only Regent Russell Gould voted against the endorsement.

The tax initiative would raise California’s sales tax one-fourth of a cent. It would also create new tax brackets that would raise the income tax 1 percent for those making more than $200,000 per year, 2 percent for those making more than $300,000 per year and 3 percent for those who make more than $500,000 per year.

“If students want to keep tuition low, they need to know that the governor’s proposal is a path to do so,” said UC President Mark Yudof. “It’s a defining moment for students to turn advocacy and protests into something (concrete).”

Some of the regents expressed regret that a more robust, five-year agreement with the governor could not have been reached, but they agreed this was the best deal that was available to the university.

“If we could have gotten a five-year deal, a better deal, we would have,” said Board Chair Sherry Lansing. “We’re going to continue trying. This was the first time we lobbied with the students. It deeply affects us. I enthusiastically support this, but it doesn’t stop here. We need to work with students, faculty, staff to get out the vote.”

In the discussion of the endorsement, some of the regents advocated including an automatic trigger that would instantly increase tuition if the initiative does not pass.

“Why are we hesitant to tie in a fee increase if the initiative doesn’t pass?” said Regent Leslie Tang Schilling. “Let’s be honest, it’s the only thing that we could do relatively quickly. I’d urge us to make clear that we will raise fees, if it doesn’t pass, 20 percent.”

The regents did not include this trigger cut when they voted to support the tax initiative, but they agreed to consider such action as well as other potential courses of action the next time they meet in September.

“Every day that we delay, the more likely it is that we’ll have tuition increases,” said Ex Officio Regent and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said numerous times that he opposed any sort of fee increase.

Brown made an appearance at the end of the day, during which he stated that Prop. 30 was up in the polls and that it was crucial for everyone who cares about the future of education in California to rally for its passage.

“Our schools will definitely not do well if voters (don’t approve the initiative),” Brown said at the meeting. “It’s a matter of all hands on deck. We need to pull together.”

Aside from considering the failure of the initiative and the massive funding crisis that would result from it, many of the regents praised the process of working with students to win the tuition freeze and much of the discussion touched on the need to rally together to win support for the initiative.

“I will personally contribute to the campaign and we should ask our friends and neighbors (to do the same),” Blum said. “The idea of going with the governor is right answer, and it’s as important a vote as I’ve ever had on this board.”

Even while stating how crucial it is for the university’s short term funding needs that the November initiative pass, some regents like Bonnie Reiss acknowledged that it will not solve all of the university’s problems.

“This initiative still doesn’t come close to roll back tuition increases which is where we all want to go,” Reiss said. “I will vote to enthusiastically support (this proposition), but even it passes, it’s not a big celebration for us.”

Although the regents agreed to freeze UC undergraduate tuition for the time being, it approved tuition hikes for 57 professional programs across the university for 2012-13. Nursing programs at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco received the most significant tuition hikes at 35 percent, and tuition at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business will increase 23 percent.

Also, tuition at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry and UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television will increase 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“We just heard President Yudof and Chair Lansing talk about tuition freeze that are being negotiated with the state, yet you are still voting for over 50 new fees for grad students,” said UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab during the meeting’s public comments period.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC Board of Regents unanimously voted to endorse Gov. Jerry Brown’s November tax initiative. In fact, Regent Russell Gould voted against the endorsement.