When I enter the voting booth on Election Day, two groups of Californians will be at the forefront of my mind. First, I will be thinking of the millions of college students in our state, along with those children who hope to one day obtain a college education. My concern will also be for businesses — from large companies like The Gap and Disney to local restaurants, dry cleaners and repair shops in our communities — that employ Californians and contribute to our state’s economy.
For both groups, there is a tremendous amount at stake this November — nothing short of the California dream is at risk. And it is clear that only voters, not legislators, now have the power to preserve that dream by supporting Propositions 30 and 39.
Together, these two citizen initiatives will accomplish what I and many other dedicated legislators fought so hard to put in place in Sacramento this year. We worked tirelessly on behalf of California’s middle-class families, their children and their jobs by working to pass a package of bills that we called the Middle Class Scholarship Act.
These bills addressed a fundamental issue of tax fairness for California businesses. The primary piece of law would have closed a discriminatory loophole in state law that currently benefits corporations only if they are headquartered in other states and employ people elsewhere. It’s a loophole that disadvantages California-based businesses and threatens jobs here while rewarding companies. It does so by letting them choose a lower tax rate based solely on their sales in our state, rather than a rate that considers whether they actually conduct business here or employ people here.
Deep-pocketed corporations blocked our efforts in the legislature. However, voters cannot be bought and sold by out-of-state corporations and their political money, so that means we have a chance to stand up to these special interests by passing Proposition 39.
Proposition 39 will close this loophole so that businesses headquartered in California can compete fairly. It should be easy to agree that California’s tax code ought to reward companies that hire Californians. Every other large state in the country, from Texas to New Jersey, has passed a similar law.
What’s more, changing this law recaptures over $1 billion a year in revenue for our state. With the Middle Class Scholarship Act, we proposed to invest that money directly into making college more affordable. We aimed to cut student fees by 66 percent at UC and CSU schools and reduce community college costs — once again making college affordable for students from middle-class families.
Together, Propositions 30 and 39 will provide the stability in our state budget to do just that. Proposition 39 will put as much as $500 million into the state’s general fund annually, and after five years, that amount will double. Proposition 30 is the last line of defense protecting education funding in California. It will bring in enough revenue to prevent trigger cuts built into the state budget that threaten to slash $6 billion from public schools. It will raise money largely by asking wealthy California families to contribute a little more in income taxes. They will be temporary taxes and only affect families that earn over $500,000 a year.
During our fight to pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act, I was proud to stand alongside so many students from around the state whose inspiring outpouring of support led to phone calls, emails, visits to legislators’ offices, and testimony during legislative hearings. Their hard work pushed our bills nearly to the finish line.
Gov. Jerry Brown has made clear that he will work to pass and sign the Middle Class Class Scholarship next year. That means those of us who believe in opportunity for California students and California businesses must continue the fight by passing Propositions 30 and 39.
We’ve now seen that special interests and out-of-state corporations will stop at nothing in Sacramento to preserve the tax loopholes that favor them. By doing so, they put the California dream at risk for so many middle-class families. That is why it is now up to voters to approve these measures. Only through the ballot box do we have the ability to make California businesses competitive, create jobs and thereby provide current and future generations of students the affordable opportunity of a world-class college education.
John A. Pérez is the speaker of the California State Assembly.
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