Mustang Daily Staff
There is a gun pointed directly at the California State University (CSU) system and it has a name: Proposition 30.
Its bullet could cripple the CSU to the tune of a $250 million budget cut if the proposition doesn’t pass, and the triggerman is none other than Gov. Jerry Brown. The cut would be a blow to an already reeling public university system and could shake the educational landscape so badly that the effects would take more than just a few dollars to overturn.
Proposition 30 is not a permanent solution for the CSU, that is clear. But it’s a temporary fix, and looking down the barrel of the gun, there’s nothing else we can do. That’s why we’re saying yes to Proposition 30.
Though what Gov. Jerry Brown is asking us to do through Proposition 30 is not a long-term fix to California’s struggling higher education, its solution is at least a modest one — temporarily raise income tax on those earning more than $250,000 and increase the sales tax by one-quarter of a percent.
Critics say taxes are already high on Californians, and voting for Proposition 30 would bring yet another tax to an upper class that doesn’t need it. But looking at the current income tax structure, there is only one tax bracket for those making between $48,000 and $1 million. What Proposition 30 would do is divide that huge span of incomes into different tax brackets, while also raising the income tax on the ultra-wealthy, or those making more than $1 million.
This will change it so someone earning $48,000 is not in the same tax bracket as someone making $999,000. Though some argue this progressive income tax is unfair to the wealthiest Californians, the state needs more money to save its public schools. This can happen one of two ways: raise taxes on the wealthy, or pass an across-the-board tax increase that hurts the already ailing middle class.
We vote for the first.
But despite our support of these new tax brackets and the sales tax increase, we recognize that Proposition 30 is not the fast track to stability for California’s education. In fact, the only money it brings to the CSU will be limited to helping offset a partial tuition refund from Fall 2012. The main revenue Proposition 30 brings in will go toward K-12 and community college education — not the CSU. But, by a complicated budgeting process, it could shift other money to contribute to the state’s general fund. Until the state decides to prioritize higher education in this general fund, the future of its economy is at risk.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who has endorsed Proposition 30, sees an investment in education as an obvious solution for the state’s budget problems.
“California needs Cal Poly grads,” he said in a September interview. “We have no problem with placements of our students. We can grow, that can also help mitigate some of the issues. Growth is a good thing.”
While the proposition will ultimately help California, the way Brown presented Proposition 30 to his residents takes an unnecessary gamble with the state’s future. If Proposition 30 fails next month, Brown has promised a $250 million “trigger cut” to both the CSU and University of California systems, as well as a reduction of more than $5.3 billion in spending to schools and community colleges.
By threatening nearly $6 billion in “trigger cuts” to education, Brown is risking the state’s future livelihood for his own political advantage. This risky move has the potential to hurt the state much worse than Proposition 30’s failure, since the proposition itself would not bring any cuts; those come straight from the governor’s office.
For this reason, Brown needs to reconsider his cuts and find other ways to slim down government spending. The CSU alone has already taken $750 million in state cuts during the past fiscal year and has put several tuition hikes on the table, including a guaranteed $100 per quarter increase if the governor pulls the trigger on his cuts. Last year marked the first time in history that CSU students funded their universities more than the state did.
Education, an extremely important and already underfunded priority, simply cannot afford more cuts.
But those “trigger cuts,” the governor said in a recent interview with the Sacramento ABC news affiliate, are not up for debate.
“I’m not going down that road,” Brown said. “There’s only, ‘Yes, we get the money,’ or, ‘No, we have the trigger cuts.’ It’s that simple.”
For California’s students, however, it is not that simple. Voting “Yes” on Proposition 30 means biding more time. And though it’s not the fix of all the state’s budget problems, there’s no other choice.