California voters narrowly passed Proposition 30, election officials announced Wednesday morning ““ preventing the University of California system from undergoing immediate funding cuts and decreasing the likelihood of significant tuition increases this school year.
The proposition, which temporarily increases taxes to fund education and balance the state budget, was approved by 53.9 percent of state voters.
“It is normally very difficult to pass tax increases with voter approval,” said Gary Orfield, a UCLA political science professor.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, support for the proposition was falling below 50 percent in some polls.
“But it still had a plurality ““ more people favored it than opposed it, and there was a significant undecided group,” said Daniel Mitchell, a professor emeritus of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Anderson School of Management.”What apparently happened was that at least a large minority of that undecided group decided that they would support it.”
Proposition 30 will raise about $6 billion in state revenue yearly by temporarily increasing taxes on incomes of more than $250,000 and the sales tax by a quarter of a cent. The sales tax increase will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, and the personal income tax will increase for the 2012 tax year.
The proposition’s passage spares the UC from an automatic $250 million cut, which would have been required to help cover the state budget shortfall had the measure failed. Revenues collected from the new measure will help pay off existing expenses from K-12 schools and community colleges ““ freeing up funds to be used for other state programs, such as the UC.
Additionally, the University can expect $125 million in extra state funds in 2013-2014, promised by the state in exchange for the measure’s passage and the UC not raising tuition this year.
Many UCLA students said they were glad to find that the proposition succeeded, including Elizabeth Franco, a third-year psychology student. When she first learned of the proposition, Franco said she considered dropping out of UCLA if it failed, because of financial restraints. If Proposition 30 did not pass, a nearly 20 percent increase ““ among other “extraordinary measures” ““ was a possibility for filling the budget gap, University officials said.
“(The tax measure) was one of the most important (propositions) on the ballot for me as a college student,” Franco said.
The proposition has drawn concern, however, over the possibility that it could take businesses and productivity away from California because businesses will have to pay larger taxes under the measure.
“What this amounts to is like bayoneting the wounded,” said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which helped sponsor the No on 30 campaign. “We’re already a high-tax state. What we should’ve been focusing on is restoring the economy.”
Opponents have also called the measure a temporary fix for the long-term problem of balancing the state budget because it lacks plans for new higher education funding and does not institute spending reforms. The state deficit was last pegged at $15.7 billion, according to the latest state budget report.
Christy Gera, a third-year art history and English student who was against Proposition 30, said she is worried the state may end up using the extra revenues from the measure on non-education programs instead.
“California has problems, but just handing money to the government won’t fix them,” Gera said.
Support for the proposition had steadily dropped over the course of the year, raising uncertainty among its proponents about its chances for passage. Awareness of the proposition was also found to be low among UCLA undergraduate students at the start of the quarter, according to a Daily Bruin/UCLA Department of Statistics survey conducted from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9.
But on Election Day, nearly 90 percent of UCLA students polled said they voted for Proposition 30, according to Daily Bruin exit polls. The tax measure was advocated as a fix to the budget crisis, which may have tipped the outcome in the proposition’s favor, Mitchell said. For instance, though both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 ““ a competing tax measure ““ had provisions to raise funds for K-12 education, Proposition 38 failed significantly while Proposition 30 emerged with a slim lead.
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the proposition’s passage would be “good news” for the University, which has seen $875 million in state funding reductions over the past four years. She added, however, that the tax measure’s passage does not guarantee there will be no tuition increases in the future ““ one of many criticisms of the proposition.
“People are tired of having endless budget crises in California, and (Proposition 30) was promised to be the solution to that issue,” Mitchell said.
California voters also elected a supermajority of Democratic leaders to the state legislature on Tuesday, which may signal a shift to the left in the California electorate, Mitchell said.
“There just generally seems to be a move toward the Democratic agenda,” Mitchell said. “In theory … Democrats can now pass just about anything they want.”
Brown thanked his supporters Tuesday night as Proposition 30′s vote count started to indicate a slim lead for the measure’s passage. The governor, who failed to increase taxes in the state legislature, said he fulfilled his promise of not raising taxes without approval from voters.
But the University’s financial problems will likely persist, Mitchell said.
“There’s no earmark of money that goes into higher education or the UC,” he said. “This is what you might call a status quo kind of budget. (Proposition 30) doesn’t really change anything for the UC except it changes us not getting into a worse situation than we already have.”
In an email sent to the campus Wednesday, Block said the University has lost 44 percent in state support since 2000 and called for national legislators to invest more funds in higher education over the long term.
“While UCLA is deeply appreciative of Gov. Brown and all the Californians who turned out to vote for Proposition 30, we all must remember that it does little in the short term to alleviate the effects of past funding cuts and unfunded cost increases,” Block said in the email.
The UC will continue to look for and cultivate alternative sources, such as private support, to fund the system, Klein said.
Contributing reports by Zachary Lemos and Christopher Hurley, Bruin contributors.