This November, Californians will be voting on eleven state ballot measures. The topics are wide-ranging, from the death penalty and three strikes reform to genetically-modified food labeling. However, none will be more critical to California’s future than Governor Brown’s Proposition 30, which implements temporary taxes to fund education and guarantee local public safety funding.
The Importance of Proposition 30
As a state, our vote on Proposition 30 will determine the level of investment we are willing to make in education, public safety, and healthcare. The Governor’s measure will provide the revenue the state needs to sustain a baseline level of services and bridge the gap while the economy recovers. Without the revenue generated from this initiative, Governor Brown has identified a number of cuts that will have to be made to balance the budget. These cuts will devastate funding for K-12 education, higher education, the Department of Developmental Services, and numerous other state services.
Since the beginning of the recession in 2008, California has seen revenues drop significantly. The Legislature has already had to make drastic budget cuts across the board. Cuts to education, healthcare, and critical social services have disproportionately impacted the children of California.
For example, California now ranks 48th in the nation in per pupil spending, $2,500 below the national average. Continuing to disinvest in education will leave the next generation of Californians unable to compete in a global economy. We need a highly trained, skilled workforce to help propel us out of this recession and build a strong economy for the future. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that the demand for college graduates will exceed supply by over one million by the end of the decade. Without a strong and vibrant education system, California will continue to fall behind.
The Governor is asking the people of California to pass Proposition 30 to generate nearly $6 billion in additional annual revenue to increase funding for K-12 education, higher education, and dedicate funding to the realignment of public safety services. Without these funds the school year could be cut by an additional 15 days, class sizes likely will go up, tuition at the University of California and Cal State University systems will continue to increase, and funding for local government services will decrease.
Recipe for Success
We already know the recipe for success – we have implemented it before and it has made California’s economy one of the largest and strongest in the world. We need three things to be successful.
Investment in Education
Our number one priority should be investing in education. When California’s school funding ranked 5th in the nation, California’s students performed 5th in the nation. That generation of innovators built the aerospace industry and created Silicon Valley, the world headquarters for internet and technology companies like Google, HP, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. California also became the home of the bio-tech industry and many of the nation’s top research institutions.
None of this would have developed in California without a significant investment in K-12 education and one of the most robust higher education systems in the world. The intellectual capital these investments created is unrivaled anywhere in the world. However, the cuts we have made in recent years are leaving our children unprepared to be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow that will sustain California’s economic strength.
Investment in Infrastructure
Secondly, we need to reinvest in our state’s crumbling infrastructure. Construction spending will create well-paying jobs, lowering California’s high unemployment rate in a critical industry and stimulating consumer spending. Strong transportation infrastructure also stimulates commerce and tourism.
Middle Class Jobs
Finally, we need middle class jobs. The middle class is the foundation of a vibrant economy. The rising level of income inequality significantly restricts the economy’s consumer base and drives down demand. As fewer middle class jobs are available, more Californians fall into poverty, requiring additional social services from the state. In short, a strong economy requires a vibrant middle class.
With these three ingredients Californians built the strongest state in the Union and we can carry that legacy into the 21st century. The first step is to stop cuts to critical programs like education and build a bridge to recovery. Proposition 30 is that bridge.
California is naturally blessed with an abundance of natural resources, a beautiful and diverse geography, and entrepreneurial and innovative people. But our state’s continued success is not inevitable. By investing in a top education system, a strong infrastructure, and a vibrant middle class, we can give our children the tools they need to sustain the bright future and strong economy our parents gave us.
Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, elected to the State Assembly in November 2008, represents the 15th Assembly District, which includes portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties and the communities of Brentwood, Danville, Elk Grove, Galt, Livermore, Oakley, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Stockton and Walnut Creek. A member of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblymember Buchanan chairs the budget subcommittee on State Administration and Information Technology. Joan is a 30 year resident of Alamo, CA and a native Californian.
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