On March 15, the Associated Students Senate approved the placement of a new $20 Klotz Student Health Center fee referendum on this April’s A.S. election ballot.
The proposed new student fee would be paid each semester, and is meant to compensate for the loss of nearly $1.1 million in state funds as part of California’s ongoing statewide budget cuts. The new fees would rise incrementally until 2015, and in addition to the $30 each student already pays, would ensure that the Student Health Center continues to operate to the best of its ability, without the loss of services, in the face of statewide economic hardship.
We support this fee referendum, as it is clear that the Student Health Center provides highly valuable services to students who truly need them. The loss of these services would negatively affect students almost immediately, and in the long term, would open the door to serious health risks across the board.
But whenever students are asked to foot the bill for something, it makes sense to analyze the situation to find out “who’s responsible.” In this case, student health fees will go up 100 percent in 10 years. So, not to sound childish, but whose fault is it?
It is certainly not the fault of the Student Health Center, or even the university itself, for coming to students with this fee referendum. It isn’t the fault of A.S. either, as they’re just representing the best interests of the students. The problem here goes deeper, and has a lot to do with the $1.1 million in state funding the Student Health Center now has to do without thanks to budget cuts.
It isn’t responsible for students to just fleetingly complain that “those state budget cuts are killing us,” and throwing up our hands to say, “How could they do that to us?” The problem here is much more real, and almost ideological.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entire campaign was focused on fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget, and controlling the “spending problem” California had apparently been suffering from for too long. It was this spending problem that supposedly threw the state into a financial panic, which led to budget cuts, and now leads to student fee referendums.
Herein lies the core of the Republican view of government: “starve the beast.” If the government reduces the amount of revenue it takes in, there will be no choice other than to reduce the amount of expenses it shells out, such as on education or other government programs. The government is then “starved” into shrinking itself — the main desire of Republicans is smaller government — in order to compensate. Since Schwarzenegger would rather resign than create new taxes to compensate for our state’s economic hard times, the size of our government will shrink, and the Student Health Center’s loss of funding is one small example of it.
The responsible way to handle the state’s budget crisis is not to cut services across the board, essentially “going with the flow” of revenue reduction and compensating accordingly. But we have a Republican governor who will not allow new taxes, and so when a government program we actually need is threatened, which is the case with our Student Health Center, new “indirect” taxes are created. They are called “new student fees,” and have come in the way of tuition hikes and now, in the form of new health fees.
This move is essentially a redirection of taxes from the general California taxpayer, who can afford it the most, to the average California student, who can afford it the least. Sounds like a cheap thing to do to young people when one knows that new taxes, in some form, are needed.
One day, however, we think students will be compelled to fight back and refuse to accept this indirect taxation in the form of new student fees.
Imagine what would happen if students said no to this fee referendum, just to demand a reform of “starve the beast” thinking in California politics, at least for a moment. Imagine the Student Health Center operating with only 65 percent of its existing services. Imagine how many more students would acquire and spread sexually transmitted diseases in just that first year. Imagine how many students would go without immunizations, regular check-ups, and laboratory services because of this reduction.
It would be tremendously dangerous for students to do this, but given the indifference of the Schwarzenegger administration, perhaps placing the health of California’s young people in jeopardy to prove that new statewide taxes are the best way to fix our “spending problem” is the only tactic that would actually jumpstart their awareness.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the Sundial editorial board and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire staff.