The California Federation of Teachers opposes the cuts made to current-year funding for schools and other vital public services, and we propose that new progressive tax revenues be enacted to protect funding in the face of additional proposed deep cuts to next year’s school budget. CFT opposes the cuts to education funding because we recognize that education is currently extremely underfunded and cuts will make matters just that much worse. The cuts are even harder to swallow when one considers Republican legislators’ insistence on keeping the tax loophole for yacht owners and other regressive tax breaks. We will continue to fight against any move to suspend Proposition 98’s minimum funding guarantee, and we believe that before cuts in any social programs are considered, increased revenue sources need to be a major component of that discussion.
Our students did not cause this crisis. Cutting public education in the middle of the academic year is going to be disruptive and devastating in many communities. We won’t agree that students should be penalized so that SUV drivers, oil companies and yacht owners can get tax breaks.
There is a long list of progressive tax increases and tax-break eliminations that could fund education and other key programs. The governor and Republican legislators’ position that there should be no new taxes is not tenable in the current budget crisis. The people of California rely on their schools and other vital public services. Progressive tax policies that ask the people who have benefited the most from living in California to pay their fair share are the most reasonable alternative to program cuts.
There are numerous potential funding sources that can lift California from near the bottom of the states in providing school and community college funding. The revenue options below would raise an estimated $13 billion per year:• Reinstate the vehicle license fee ($6 billion per year).
• Bring the top tax bracket back to 11 percent ($2.5 billion).
• Reassess nonresidential real estate property ($3 billion per year).
• Limit mortgage interest deductions to $50,000 in interest ($47 million per year).
• Require that large corporations file as corporations, not “S” type partnerships ($500 million to $600 million per year).
• Enact a severance tax on oil produced in California ($1 billion per year with oil at $80 a barrel).
• Close the tax loophole for luxury boats and planes exchanged in Mexico ($55 million).
• Extend a sales tax to Internet purchases ($20 million).
My experience in teaching for more than 30 years has taught me that taking funds from students’ education sets them back. That is the reality of budget cuts made this week and those proposed for next year: They impact a student’s education. A first- or second-grader can never recover the lost chance to experience a smaller class, or a music program, or the assistance of a classroom aide. That student will carry that deficit forward and most likely achieve less than he or she would have. When the governor and other politicians talk about “autopilot spending,” they’re talking about our students. When they talk about cutting funds, they mean they’re whacking away at the core of quality education.
I’ve seen the results of past budget cuts. I’ve seen the loss of access to community colleges for hundreds of thousands of students. There is real damage done by the cuts made to schools. Meanwhile, yacht owners, oil companies and corporate property owners pocket billions that could be better used to properly fund education and other public services, and in the process help all Californians instead of just the advantaged few.
This governor was elected on his promise never to cut Prop. 98 — “over my dead body” were his exact words. I hope the governor will remember his promise and honor it. Yacht owners don’t need his help; our students do.