Prop 30: It’s time for us to pay up

Our schools and universities need our support.  If you were taught in California’s public education system, and if you value what this education has given you, vote yes on Prop 30. It’s time to pay back our community for our subsidized education.

First some facts: Prop 30 raises sales taxes by 0.25 percent and income tax rates on upper income people. The 2012-2013 budget assumed passage of Prop 30; if the proposition fails, this will trigger significant spending cuts: $5.35 billion to schools and community colleges, $250 million to the University of California (UC), $250 million to California State University (CSU), plus other reductions for a total of $5.95 billion. Prop 38 is a competing initiative; whichever proposition gathers more votes will win.

Supporters of Prop 30 point out that by passing the bill we will

  • Stop another $6 billion in cuts to our schools this year.
  • Prevent steep tuition hikes for college students and their families.
  • Invest in our schools and colleges so we can prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future.

Opponents claim that the bill

  • Raises sales and income taxes on ALL Californians as much as $50 Billion over the next seven years
  • Doesn’t guarantee ANY new funding for schools
  • Destroys small business and kills jobs
  • Includes NO reform

Even if the bill guarantees no new funding for schools, the consequences are clear: if this bill loses, almost $6 billion disappear from K-12 and higher education. Compare this to a total budget of $39.2 billion for K-12 and $9.8 billion for higher education, over a 10% budget reduction. For comparison imagine your household budget being reduced by 10%. It’s a huge reduction. On the other hand, we are in a recession (or is it a “jobless recovery”?) and taxes are generally bad in recessions. It is possible that a tax hike will harm job and businesses growth. In short, we are between a rock and a hard place – left to decide between harming a stagnant economy and losing substantial and critical funds for education.

If this is how you analyze the issue, it is hard to criticize voting either for or against Prop 30.  Things are different, however, if you are considering a vote against Prop 30 based on a principled stand against taxation while failing to recognize the benefits you have received from state funds.

Let’s limit this argument to those of us who have received public higher education in California (higher education is not compulsory and one is a legal adult when deciding to attend). If you are in this group, reflect on the professional value of your education. Would you be where you are professionally were it not for the education you received? California has (or had) one of the world’s best higher education systems. It provided us with skills and knowledge that drove much of the state’s booming economy and enriched us personally and culturally through general education in the humanities. Even if you are currently attending public university in California, and even with today’s rapidly increasing tuition rates, you are still paying less than half of the cost of your education. If you attended earlier, your contribution was lower – even measly by today’s standards (in the early 1980s the yearly tuition and fees to attend UC was about $2000 and CSU about $500, both in 2010 dollars). We, the rest of the citizens of California, paid the rest. The income you make now is of course due in part to your talent and a lifetime of hard work. It is also due in part to state support you received from the rest of us. Not from government, but from your fellow citizens. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your co-workers. We all paid for your education.

The plea to you is today, on behalf of all of us who have paid your way, is to pay this debt forward – not to any of us, but to those who have yet to come through the system.

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