California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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California, It’s Time to Take a Stand

Somehow everyone thought that at electing Jerry Brown would stave off the budget cuts.

The California election was often little more than a public relations contest of name-calling, which happens to be almost every election in the U.S.

Neither Meg Whitman nor Jerry Brown released any tentative budgets or substantial, detailed solutions to the budget crisis before elections, which says more about public relations than democracy. Essentially, voters were left with vague promises and ambiguous language. The rhetoric was illuminating, but campaign contributions even more so.

Brown is your average centrist. He didn’t really advocate raising the income tax, establishing a oil extraction fee or legalization of marijuana. Despite being huge revenue generators, Brown remained silent on these issues because of their decisive nature among voters. The 1.8 million the state prison guard union spent on Brown’s behalf has insulated the prison industrial complex, or California’s largest welfare program, from cuts. In fact, it’s the only area to increase under Brown’s budget proposal by $395 million.

On the other hand, the UCs and CSUs each take a $500 million hit along with severe cuts to other vital programs: $1.5 billion from welfare, $1.7 billion from Medi-Cal and $750 million from services for the developmentally disabled. So much for “requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state,” as Brown put it.

Overall, Brown plans cut $12.5 billion and save $12.5 billion through tax extensions that Californians will vote on in June, if Brown gets two-thirds of Legislature’s support. This is where Brown isn’t all wrong, and most likely separates him Whitman.

But the election of either candidate wouldn’t have solved the budget crisis in any way that benefits the majority of Californians. Most elections in the U.S. don’t.

So the question is, what do we do? In the case of California’s budget deficit, we have two options: generate tax revenue or cut services. Legalization of marijuana, an oil severance tax, and reforming Proposition 25 is a good place to start.

With a potential industry that has the ability to more than double California’s highest cash crop of milk cream, you’d think marijuana was legal just by the way Californians smoke. I think Californians have decided that it’s their right to get high, but we’re stuck with a question of how. The devil is always in the details.

An oil severance tax at 25 percent, the same rate Alaska had under Sarah Palin, would generate anywhere from $4-8 billion annually, yet the oil industry has waged a relentless campaign against a tax as low as 5 percent.

In regard to Prop 25, the proposition meant to hold down property taxes for low and middle income families, it has became a legal loophole for corporations to pay pennies on the value of their property. At the same time, the two-thirds majority to increase taxes has been a blockade to any new taxes. Reforming Prop 25 will start gain revenue lost over the years.

All these things are a step in the right direction, and there’s many more areas for the state to tackle, like the Prison Industrial complex, transparency and waste.

Will Jerry Brown or Sacramento enact any of these reforms? Not likely, or it will be in a form so blunted that it only makes a slight difference.

It’s time for Californians to step up. It’s time for Californians to open the discourse, to organize and protest. Otherwise, we watch all the hard work and progress we made in education, healthcare, and welfare cut to skeletons.

Californians created free tuition for the baby boomers and social services for the poor, the disabled and the elderly, and I suspect we can do it again.

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California State University East Bay
California, It’s Time to Take a Stand