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by Julia Stein
Saturday, Mar. 29, 2003 at 10:59 AM
Republican Party's behind California's budget problems leading to major assaults on education, particularly at community colleges
At Santa Monica College this spring 180 instructors have been laid off, with hundreds more to be cut next fall. In the fall thousands of community college instructors statewide could lose their jobs and 100,000 students lose their classes.
Who’s responsible? The California Republican Party is the main reason for the budget shortfall and cutbacks in California. California is one of about 3 states that requires 2/3 majority in the legislature to increase taxes and also to pass the state budget (the other states require 50%). California Republicans passed both laws. Even though California is extremely Democratic state with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both the state assembly and senate, these majorities are less than 2/3, so Republican votes are needed to pass the state budget and also for any tax increase. Thus the Republicans, the minority party, have a veto power over the budget or any tax increase.
To lower taxes in the legislature, however, takes only a majority of 50%. During Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration, California Republicans lowered income taxes on wealthy individuals and also passed an increase of the state vehicle license fee but then voted to get rid of this tax increase because of state budget surplus at the time. In January Gov. Davis proposed numerous tax increases but the Calif. Republican Party is vehemently against any new taxes so Davis basically gave up. If any Republican legislator would vote with the Democrats on either the budget or tax increase, the Calif. Republican Party has promised to start a recall of that legislator within 60 days. No tax increases. Instead cut, cut, cut the budget.
The state vehicle license fee which was passed in the 1990s and then gotten rid of had a little clause—if the state budget was in deficit, then the vehicle license fee would be automatically reinstated. So two months ago Democratic legislators passed a law saying that the vehicle license fee be reinstated—this tax increase would have exempted cars worth less than ,000 but would have given millions every month to the state budget. The Republicans immediately screamed and screamed against the bill. Gov. Davis vetoed the bill, because he was tired of fighting with Republicans and wanted to compromise with them. So there you have it—weak willed Gov. Davis won’t fight the Republican tyranny over the budget.
The present situation in Sacramento is you have every health and education lobbying group fighting to save its programs and besieging Democratic legislators. Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg said that though the budget needs to be passed by July 1, the Democrats and Republicans are so far apart that by October probably no budget will be passed so the whole state will come to a screeching halt with no state worker getting paid.
One last point. Public services have been chronically under funded in California since 1978 with the Republicans won passage of Proposition 13 limiting property taxes. The burden of funding services was transferred to the state but the state wasn’t giving the mechanism to pay for them. This long-standing problem has been increased by economic changes in the late 1990s.
In crash in the stock market, all those people in California who lost money are taking capital gains losses as tax deductions, thus greatly reducing California taxes on personal income. Further, California’s other main source of revenue is the sales tax, but since more Californians are buying through the Internet whose sales don’t pay any tax in this state, sales taxes aren’t increasing. As the economy in this state has changed from manufacturing to services, Gov. Davis in January proposed a tax on services but the Republicans, of course, vetoed all tax increases—whether sales, tax on services, tax on Internet sales, etc. So the tax code hasn’t kept up with the changes in the economy, thus contributing to the state’s budget deficit.
So come fall when thousands of instructors across the state lose their college teaching jobs and over 100,000 students lose their classes, go tell the Republican Party that their policies are destroying education.
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