Humanity Not Austerity: Time to Step It Up for Prop 30
By Malinda Markowitz, RN
It's time to get serious about protecting our schools, our basic healthcare services, and the public support so essential to assuring a civil society in California.
Attention Californians: We need to pass Proposition 30.
With the latest polls showing a real tightening on the measure, let's recall what is at stake, and take a harder look at who is financing the campaign against this vital measure.
Prop 30, initiated by Governor Jerry Brown, is an effort to rebuild a humane society that has been gravely harmed by years of budget cuts under our now infamous ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the distortion of public policy in California by those on the right who have made it so difficult to pass needed tax increases to improve public services.
In contrast to Schwarzenegger and the plague of right-wing governors around the country, with Prop 30, Brown has declared we can no longer fix underfunded services with just endless austerity budget cuts that disproportionately hit our children and the most vulnerable in the state.
Instead, Brown has embraced a push for increased revenues, particularly from those in the 1 percent who have benefited the most in recent decades as more and more resources were shifted from working people to corporate board rooms and the very wealthy. In California, for example, one-third of income gains the past two decades went to the richest 1%, and three-fourths to the top 10%.
Proposition 30 would establish temporary tax increases, mostly on upper income Californians, to raise desperately needed funds mostly for public education, but also for public safety, healthcare services and other social services funded by state and local governments.
The tax increases are graduated based on income. Individuals with annual incomes over $500,000 or joint filers who earn over $1 million would pay an extra 3 percent. It's a 2 percent hike for people over $300,000, and 1 percent over $250,000.
Prop 30 would raise about $6 billion annually over the next four years. Funds go first to schools and community colleges. It also modifies the state Constitution to assure that counties receive ongoing funding for public safety, health and human service programs.
Why we need Prop 30 - Save Our Schools
California has fallen to 47th in the U.S. in per pupil funding for education, fundamentally jeopardizing what once was a model for the nation of a system of public schools and colleges that gave every Californian access to the education.
The idea of equal access to education at all levels is central to the dream of eradicating economic and social injustice, and it is an idea that is rapidly fading in California, as in other states.
In the last four years alone, California schools have been hit with $20 billion in cuts, over 30,000 fewer teachers and class sizes that are among the largest in the country.
Rejection of Prop 30, Brown has warned, would trigger $6 billion in state spending cuts on January 1, mostly from K-12 schools, which would be authorized to cut short their school year. Additionally, there would be a 5 percent tuition hike at the California State University system, 20 percent tuition hikes at the University of California, and a reduction in funding to community colleges.
Why We Need Prop 30 - Protect Healthcare
Healthcare services, especially those that serve the most vulnerable in our population, suffered devastating cuts under Schwarzenegger. The cuts have continued as the state has struggled with the impact of the economic crisis.
As much as $15 billion has been cut in health and social services because of budget deficits the past three years, with no protections for healthcare funds in the budget as there is for education. Without Prop 30 increasing revenue for the general fund, healthcare will be an even bigger target for devastating cuts.
Who's opposed to Prop 30 - An all too familiar cabal
Leading the opposition are:
- The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the remnants of the creators of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that is most responsible for the starving of resources in California. Ostensibly intended to slash property taxes, Prop 13 spawned a phalanx of anti-tax efforts intended to defund government and premised on the worst stereotypes of government, public workers, and a broad range of basic services from education to public assistance that are intrinsic to building a more humane and equitable society.
- "National Federation of Independent Business," which, a Huffington Post article has noted, lobbies on issues that favor large corporate interests rather than small-business interests.
- "Small Business Action Committee," another group linked to big corporations and right-wing interests.
Two donors to the "Small Business Action Committee" merit special note.
- The clandestine Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership now being sued by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission for violation of California's campaign finance laws that require non-profits to disclose their donors.
- Charles Munger, Jr., heir to the fortune of his father Charles Munger, Sr., vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, with much wealth deriving from the insurance business. Munger, who has just dropped another $13 million into their coffers, has already donated $35 million to kill Prop 30 and, along with Arizona's Americans for Responsible Leadership, pass the anti-union initiative Prop. 32.
Indeed, the joint campaign of No on 30 and Yes on 32 may be the clearest signal of the direct link between those who hate unions and want to silence the voice of workers in public policy, the goal of Prop 32, and the anti-tax fanatics willing to sacrifice public education and our children, along with health care for those most in need, for their anti-government crusade.
In an August press conference, California Nurses Association Co-president Deborah Burger emphasized the importance of Prop 30:
Our families can't succeed unless our schools have teachers, colleges are affordable, health care is obtainable, libraries stay open, and neighborhoods stay safe. This initiative puts the state's priority back on what matters: our future, our families, our neighborhoods.
Please join nurses in getting out the word to vote Yes on Prop 30.
Malinda Markowitz is a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.