Thursday, December 15, 2011

Report from Sacramento: Refund California and Support Peaceful Protests

The state hearing on student protests in the UC and UCSC system produced one tangible result: the promise of a follow-up hearing. Legislators were also given an earful from students who very effectively tied the question of police violence to the state’s failure to fund higher ed. Moreover, the state heard loud and clear that the governor’s tax initiative fails to support higher education and makes workers and middle-class families pay more during a time when they are making less.

One of the most interesting moments occurred after a CSU representative blamed outside agitators for the “mob” violence at the most recent CSU trustees meeting. Charlie Eaton from the UAW set the record straight and told the legislators that the CSU has just lied. Eaton stressed that three of the arrested students were from the CSUs and the other student was a UC student, and all charges were dropped after news video clearly showed a police broke the door window with his own baton.

Eaton also stated that the students are part of the Refund California movement, which is trying to make bankers and millionaires pay to restore funding for higher education. Furthermore, he stressed that the UC regents and CSU trustees are almost all members of the 1% who are failing to protect California’s master plan. The legislators then asked the student panel what should be done about the regents.

Several of us pointed out that there will only be more protests, and the recent protest rules handed down from UCR will only make things worse. We later leaned that the UCR Chancellor reversed course, and he decided to take back the new restrictions on demonstrations. This reversal is another sign that the UC and CSU administrations are now playing defense, and they are feeling quite vulnerable.

While the members of the Refund California are pushing for the CFT Millionaire’s tax, we may also want to consider the new initiative to tax oil extraction to fund higher education. It is clear that now is the time to push for a progressive agenda for California.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Progressives Take on The Governor over Taxes

While Governor Jerry Brown’s recently proposed tax initiative does seek to provide $6 billion in new revenue for the state, it is being challenged by three other initiatives, but only one is truly progressive. The California Federation of Teachers has formed a coalition with several other groups, including the Courage Campaign, to push for a tax on millionaires to fund K-higher education. Although some fear that competing initiatives may result in all of them losing at the ballot, we are hoping that everyone will eventually rally behind the CFT proposal, which is the only one that has a good chance at passing.

One of the problems with Brown’s initiative is that it combines a tax on people earning more than $250,000 with a sales tax increase of .5%. This combination means that struggling lower- and middle-class workers will end up paying more for a tax that might not help fund higher education. Moreover, the Governor’s initiative may not be approved by the Attorney General because it fails to pass the test of being a “single purpose” initiative. In fact, one of the hidden aspects of Brown’s proposal is that it moves the responsibility to house certain prisoners from the state to local governments.

The other main tax initiatives are also not progressive, and they have a lower chance of passing. To work through this problem of competing tax proposals, the CFT is pushing for a shared poll that would see what Californian voters would actually support. So far, a coalition of UC unions and students groups is supporting the CFT proposal, but the governor and Democratic members in the legislature are still pushing for a non-progressive solution. The next few months thus will be crucial for all of us to rally around the CFT proposal to make sure that higher education gets funded in a fair and equitable manner.