Staff editorial: Prop 30 is a catch-22 we don’t want but need

Illustration by Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea

 

On Nov. 6, the Daily Sundial recommends you vote for Proposition 30, the “Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012.”

Don’t be too thrilled about it – we’re not.

We recognize that desperate times call for desperate measures. If this tax initiative does not pass, the Cal State University promises a tuition hike for the eleventh time since 2001, and many students will not be able to handle the steep cost of $6,270 for the 2013-14 year, not including specific campus fees such as campus quality or student union fees.

As students, our editorial staff values education and knows how a stable tuition will help ourselves and our families. However, our team of 12 came to the decision to endorse Proposition 30 by only a two vote margin. Those who voted yes did so in fear of the so-called “trigger cuts” that would harm students.

Proposition 30 is essentially Gov. Jerry Brown’s solution to a financial hostage situation that he and the legislature created. California’s 2012-13 budget for public services, called the general fund, has $91.3 billion to spend$5.4 billion more than the previous year – yet we’ve allocated about $800 million less to higher education.

Instead, the legislature decided to give about $1.2 billion more to general government (departments, commissions and offices) and Brown’s $68 billion bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco is still in the works.

It is insulting to give more money to administrators and bureaucracy when students are taking on jobs and taking out loans to pay for an education that is dwindling in quality. Brown makes it seem that this education budget shortfall just fell out of the sky, when he and government actually created the conditions for the apocalypse that will ensue if Proposition 30 does not pass.

Brown is desperate for Proposition 30 to pass because that apocalypse would also harm the government.

The Supreme Court ordered Brown last year to reduce California’s overcrowded state penitentiaries, so far eliminating 20,000 low-level, non-violent and non-sexual offenders from the prison population.

In response, the California government passed the 2011 Realignment Legislation, which shifts money from the general fund to a separate public safety fund that would go towards counties. According to the proposition, this safety fund would be sponsored by allocating a portion of our current sales taxes as well as vehicle license fees.

The Realignment Legislation directly relates to Proposition 30. Due to Proposition 98, passed in 1988, California’s constitution requires the government to spend at least 40 percent of the general fund towards K-14 education, meaning K-12 and community colleges. The general fund gets its money mainly from sales taxes, personal income taxes and corporate income taxes, so the realignment plan takes some of the sales tax money away from the general fund.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the realignment moneys “are not available for the Legislature to spend for education purposes and thus are not counted as state revenue for purposes of calculating the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee.”

Because Brown wrote the 2012-13 budget with the assumption that Proposition 30 would pass, that 40 percent would not be met if the initiative fails.

“If no ballot measure is adopted satisfying these requirements the funds would not be excluded from the Proposition 98 guarantee moving forward and the state would need to repay K–14 education for the loss of $2.1 billion for the 2011–12 year over a five–year period,” stated the LAO.

This is a manifestation of the correlation between prisons and education. According to a study published by California Common Sense, called “Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California,” the Corrections and Rehabilitation department’s portion of the budget has consistently grown over the last three decades, while higher education’s portion has consistently shrunk.

The cuts to corrections spending has declined during the recession, for the first time in the past three decades, but not enough. While the general fund saw a 2 percent decrease in higher education spending since last year, prison spending has only decreased by 1.7 percent. That .3 percent could have saved at least a few million dollars for education.

However appalling we find these spending decisions to be, we know that something needs to be done to ameliorate the government’s past bad decisions. California has lost about $12 billion from its general fund since the recession hit in 2008 and we’ve done our duty to cut from public programs to balance the budget in these hard times. It is impractical to vote no on this initiative because our state desperately needs revenue.

Although Proposition 30 does not promise money for higher education, it would make available other moneys from the budget to allocate for higher education. It protects K-12 public education as well as community colleges by creating an Education Protection Account within the general fund, where the money generated by the tax initiative will go for the next seven years.

By voting yes, we are making sure that education will not be messed around with in our near future.

We just wish we didn’t have to feel bullied into voting this way.