Prop. 30: We can’t afford to waste this opportunity

Without funds, state’s schools may be irreparably harmed

letters@thetribunenews.comSeptember 3, 2012 

  • Proposition 30

    What it would do: Increase statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years and raise income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for seven years, generating an additional $6 billion annually for the first few years.

    Who would benefit: This year, K-12 schools and community colleges would avoid further cuts of more than $5 billion; higher education and public safety programs also would be spared further cuts. In future years, 89 percent of revenue would be allocated to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges.

    The Tribune recommends: Yes

When he ran for office two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown pledged that he would not raise taxes without the consent of California voters. Unfortunately, politics got in the way; Republican lawmakers blocked Brown’s efforts to put a tax measure on the ballot.

Finally, we have a chance this November to approve a tax measure that will prevent the further slide of K-12 schools and higher education. We must take advantage of it.

We strongly urge a "yes" vote on Proposition 30 — the combination sales and income tax measure proposed by Brown.

The temporary measure would increase sales tax by a quarter-cent for the next four years, and would raise income tax for Californians earning more than $250,000 per year for seven years.

By comparison, Molly Munger’s competing tax measure — Proposition 38 — would raise income taxes on those earning as little as $7,316 per year and for a period of 12 years.

We urge support for Proposition 30. It’s the stronger measure, and it has a better chance of passing.

If Proposition 30 fails, it will so undermine public education that it could take years, even decades, to pull out of it. In the interim, a generation of students will have been irreparably harmed. And no, we are not crying wolf.

Think about what’s already occurred in our local schools: the increases in class size; loss of elective courses and extracurricular activities; teacher layoffs; reduction in teaching days; cancellation of free public transportation.

At the community college level, we’ve seen classes cut to the point that some students are effectively shut out of an education.

Without an infusion of revenue from Proposition 30, it will only get worse.

In SLO County, K-12 schools will lose an estimated $15 million this year, on top of the $18 million lost over the past four years.

Statewide, K-12 schools and community colleges will be out more than $5 billion.

That’s a staggering figure — one that can’t be made up by canceling field trips or cutting back library hours or doing away with band.

To cope with that stunning loss of revenue, school boards will be authorized to negotiate a reduction of 15 days from the school year for the next two years. That’s in addition to five days that have already been cut in some districts, which means some students will only be attending school for 160 days a year.

And here’s our fear: Once those days are lost, that will become the new normal and it may be years before we’re back up to a 180-day year.

Do we also want to be known as the state with the shortest school year? Try luring new businesses to the Golden State with that!

And it isn’t just K-12 schools that will be affected; this year’s entire state budget was built on the assumption that the measure would pass.

If Proposition 30 doesn’t pass, there will be more mid-year hits, including:

  • The California State University system will lose $250 million; Cal Poly’s hit will be $14 million to $15 million.
  • City police departments will lose $20 million.
  • Cal Fire will be out $10 million and the Department of Fish and Game, $4 million.

Bottom line: Proposition 30 will prevent a further erosion of the most basic of services — education, law enforcement, fire protection — at a relatively low cost.

One final word: We recognize that there are voters who don’t trust the state to spend any tax revenue wisely, and will vote against a tax measure no matter who proposes it.

We agree there are plenty of reasons to be disgusted with state government; the latest debacle involving the $54 million in unreported state park funds is one.

But do not let high-profile scandals divert us from the real issue.

California’s schools need help, and Proposition 30 is the best and fastest way to provide it.

The Tribune strongly urges voters to support Proposition 30.

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