Students mull taxes, fee hikes and Prop. 30

Opposing views of Proposition 30 — as either a sensible “share-the-wealth” measure or a “cynical tax increase” — got an airing Wednesday evening at a tightly structured student-sponsored forum.

Two seniors, two views on Prop. 30

“This is incredibly important, a decision point for California, whether we value education or want to tell students they’re on their own.’

— Ally Little, political-economy major and aide to Assemblymember Nancy Skinner

“I’m skeptical. As a combat medic, we had a saying: ‘putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.’ You have limited resources in the field; there comes a time when you have to cut off resources when there’s no hope is sight.”

— Political-science major and veteran (who declined to be named)

“Prop. 30 asks everyone in California to pay their fair share, so we can avoid cuts to education and ensure funding for local public safety,” panelist and Berkeley assemblymember Nancy Skinner told about 75 students gathered in Eshleman Hall.

The proposition, supported by Gov. Jerry Brown, would temporarily raise tax rates on personal income above $250,000, and the state sales-tax rate by one-quarter cent. Revenues generated, about $6 billion annually, would be directed to K-14 schools and public-safety programs.

Skinner, a Democrat, noted that the measure’s income-tax increases would affect only 1 percent of Californians, who she said would have paid “a much higher income tax rate than they do today” under conservative governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson. If Prop. 30 passes, the state will have no structural deficit, and a good bond rating, for at least five years, she said.

For Sue Caro, chair of the Alameda County Republican Party, California’s “dismal economy” is partially due to an already excessive tax burden — the state’s sales, income and gasoline taxes being among the highest in the nation, she noted.

California’s 2012-13 budget plan assumes passage of Prop. 30. “If it passes, there is no plan to increase fees this fiscal year,” said Peter Taylor, UC’s chief financial officer. But he warned that failure of the measure on Nov. 6 would lead to trigger cuts — for the UC system, an estimated $375 million — and fee hikes for UC students.

Asked for alternative revenue-generating strategies, Caro said the state should look to reduce pension obligations for state workers, retiree health benefits and welfare payments. Short of ending the rule requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes, Skinner suggested an oil-severance tax (like that imposed by all other oil-producing states in the nation, she said), ending the state’s costly death penalty (proposed in Prop. 34) and amending its three-strikes policy (Prop. 36). Skinner also favors the income-tax increase for multi-state businesses proposed in Prop. 39.

Prop. 30 background and resources

UC article, with links to additional resources including the Secretary of State website

California Choices voter guide

Governor Brown’s open letter to college students

CalMessage from Chancellor Birgeneau
(requires CalNet ID)

All three panelists, for different reasons, oppose Prop. 38, an alternative measure to raise funds for public education.

The forum was organized by the Associated Students of the University of California and the Graduate Assembly, with support from the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate and the offices of the Dean of Students, Government and Community Relations and Public Affairs.