By Steve Gunn
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Supporters of California’s Proposition 30, which would supposedly raise taxes to provide more revenue for public education, are worried that overburdened taxpayers might reject the idea.
So they’re appealing to college students and others who pay very few taxes to put the ballot proposal over the top.
In other words, they’re telling young people to vote “yes” and stick it to the old folks, because it won’t cost them a penny.
What a cynical way to impose a tax without the clear consent of those being taxed.
Proposition 30, pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown and others responsible for California’s huge budget deficit, would impose a .25 percent sales tax increase statewide, and a large income tax hike for those making more than $250,000 per year.
Recent polls indicate a tight race for approval. That means those who work and vote on a regular basis aren’t sure if they want this new financial burden.
Some are undoubtedly worried about the effect of the tax on small business owners who would be squeezed out of dollars they might otherwise use to expand and create jobs.
That seems like a legitimate concern. More than 250 companies left the state in 2011, and Development Counselors International ranked California last among the 50 states in business climate, due to operating costs, taxes and deficits.
Prop 30 certainly wouldn’t help ease the tax burden on job creators.
Some people probably resent the education funding dilemma as Gov. Brown is presenting it. They are told that if they approve Prop. 30 the schools will be fine. But if they defeat the proposal school budgets will be cut by millions of dollars and the school calendar in many districts will be shortened.
In other words Brown is saying, “Give us your money or the hell with your kids.”
Some people would probably prefer to see the state get its financial house in order, instead of seeking even more money for lawmakers to waste.
That’s another reasonable concern. State officials recently announced that the budget deficit is projected to hit $16 billion this year, far exceeding the $9 billion projection announced in January.
The bottom line is that California politicians are too beholden to special interests – like public sector unions – to make the type of spending cuts necessary to balance the budget. They always spend far too much, and now they want a raise in their allowance.
Little trust in Brown, state lawmakers
That group of Prop. 30 dissenters includes a majority of the members of the Summerville Union High School Board of Education.
While most school boards across the state, desperate for more operating dollars, are falling in lockstep behind the tax proposal, the Summerville board is a clear exception.
Members recently made headlines by voting 3-2 to reject a resolution offered by the California Federation of Teachers supporting Proposition 30.
According to one estimate, Proposition 30 would raise about $6 billion per year between 2012 and 2017. Eighty-nine percent of the revenue would supposedly be earmarked for K-12 schools while 11 percent would go to community colleges.
Summerville school board member David Marquez told a local newspaper that he read the proposal and found no evidence of safeguards to prevent misuse of the tax money. And based on their track record, he sees no reason to trust Sacramento politicians with even more tax revenue.
“I don’ think the state of California is responsible in its spending, so I don’t think we should raise taxes,” Marquez was quoted as saying.
Board member David Spisak concurred, saying the answer to the funding problem was not “dumping more money into Sacramento.”
There is a great deal of concern about Brown’s ties to the state’s teachers unions. Some fear the governor is selling Prop 30 as a way to assist students, then the money will actually be used to increase benefits for teachers. As we’ve learned the hard way, better benefits for school employees do not equal better education for children.
Voters are probably wise to wonder why the California Teachers Association and American Federation of Teachers are among the leading donors to the Proposition 30 campaign, pouring a combined $11.5 million into the effort.
As the Victorville (Calif.) Daily Press wrote in a recent editorial, “Gov. Jerry Brown argues that the money will go to California’s public schools, but that’s dishonest at best. He wants you to believe that when he says ‘schools’ he means students. He doesn’t; he means teachers’ benefits, mostly pensions.”
Young voters may not be getting the whole story
Unfortunately the workers and taxpayers may not get the final say. A group called “Reclaim California’s Future,” led by the California Federation of Teachers, is kicking off a major effort to deliver a decisive block of “yes” votes.
Who are they targeting for support? College students and other young people who rarely vote, let alone pay much in the way of taxes.
“These new and occasional voters are very responsive to Prop 30 once they learn who is taxed (the wealthy) and what the tax is for (schools),” said Josh Pechthalt, president of the CFT.
We’re sure the union folks aren’t telling the young voters that there’s another way to produce a lot of revenue for schools. It would involve cutting runaway labor costs in public schools by limiting union collective bargaining privileges.
Under such a scenario, teachers in Los Angeles may no longer get free health insurance at a cost of more than $400 million per year to the district. They may no longer get 16 paid sick and personal days every year, costing the school district more than $300 million for substitute teachers.
Teachers across the state could live without their retention bonuses, reimbursement for unused sick days, automatic annual salary increases, longevity bonuses, grad school tuition reimbursement and a host of other contractual goodies.
Schools would save millions by cutting those types of perks, making a major tax increase far less necessary.
This isn’t just a theory. It’s been tested in Wisconsin, where the state took away the ability of teachers unions to suck the financial life out of public schools. As a result, schools in Wisconsin are on sound financial footing for the first time in years. The state has made deep cuts in K-12 funding, yet school districts have largely avoided teacher layoffs and student program cuts.
The young people of California should ask themselves if they are being used by Gov. Brown and the self-serving public employee unions. Perhaps they should consider the reality that they will soon be taxpayers as well, and may not want to inherit a state with a huge budget deficit, out of control government spending and huge tax burdens on citizens.