Prop 30 Could Change Higher Education in California

Proposition 30, a measure on November's ballot in California, could significantly change the way public higher education is funded in the state. The measure seeks both to increase taxes and to do away with funding cuts automatically triggered by shortfalls in government revenues.

According to Huffington Post, the passage of Prop 30 could finally see the decline — if not the reversal — of budget cuts that have hit K-12 and university systems in the state.

The budget includes a slate of cuts, mainly aimed at higher education, in the event that Prop 30 fails to pass next month. Huffington Post is predicting that should those cuts be triggered, they will give rise to student protests that will make those held last year look mild by comparison. Last year, students took the the streets over the latest round of tuition hikes, which colleges and universities instituted in order to make up the shortfalls in state funding. This round could usher not only additional further tuition bumps, but also a greater rush by University of California system to privatize some of its holdings.

Prop 30's tax cuts will mainly target people and households that fall squarely into the upper-middle class and above. It will impose a 1-3% tax increase on individuals with incomes of at least $250,000 and on couples reporting taxable income of $500,000 or more.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office, which provides nonpartisan analysis for the state Legislature, concluded Prop 30 would raise an average of approximately $6 billion annually through 2017. Close to 80 percent of the new revenue would come from the top 1 percent of earners in the state, according to the California Budget Project, making it a progressive tax fix overall. The bottom 80 percent of earners, whose incomes have declined in the past 25 years according to the CBP, would pay less than 10 percent of the new taxes.

The 2013 budget includes an agreement with both the University of California and California State University not to raise tuition further. CSU even promised to issue tuition reimbursements of nearly $500 to all students if Prop 30 is approved by voters.

It is unclear if the public universities will be released from their promises in the event that Prop 30 fails to pass. If Prop 30 is rejected, holding the schools to this pledge would amount to – in the words of Robert Meister, president of the Council of UC Faculty Association – "budgetary terrorism."

Nevertheless, Meister said faculty have no choice but to support the measure, because there is no plan B to shore up university funding and the alternatives are much worse.

All but 1.6 percent of the $6 billion trigger cuts would hit some level of public education, with much of that directed to K-12 schools.

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