Prop 30 is short-term pain to save higher ed

by Leonardo Castaneda

MCT Campus

I hate needles. I hate when one violently pierces my skin and muscle, enters my vein and releases its juices inside me. The ordeal is done in less than 30 excruciating seconds at the hands of an almost complete stranger. As I stagger home clutching my arm, I ask myself why I willingly, even happily, submit myself to the pain and humiliation of vaccines.

I don’t do it because it’s fun. I do it because in the long run, it’s good for me. I endure one day with a sore arm so I can avoid weeks of being sick. We constantly make trades of short-term pain for long-term relief. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 is one of those trades. Most of us won’t feel the pain of higher income taxes. Only 3 percent of California’s highest earners are expected to pay more. However, the proposition also imposes a higher state sales tax we all have to pay for.

The 0.25 percent higher sales tax might not sound like a lot.

For a $60 copy of NFL “Madden 2013” you’ll pay a whopping 15 cents extra in sales tax. During the seven year life of the tax hike imposed by Proposition 30, those extra few cents add up to a substantial amount, especially if you’re living paycheck to pay- check. This trade-off preserves the quality of public K-12 and higher education in California.

If the constant pressure of budget cuts further erodes the quality of our education and the education of younger genera- tions, our state will be in a crisis far worse than the current one. Our state, and the businesses employing graduates in our state, depends on students graduating with a world-class, competitive education. For decades, the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems have provided this essential service for students. The allure of a constant stream of highly educated graduates attracts businesses much more than high taxes repel them.

If the quality of higher educa- tion falters, obviously we college students, faculty and staff at a CSU will suffer. This problem is showing people who have already graduated how underfunded higher education affects everyone in the state. Colleges are incubators for innovation and research. California won’t continue to be one of the largest economies in the world 20 years from now because low wages and taxes attracted a washing machine factory to the state. It will continue its economic dominance by fostering the next Facebook or Apple product.

Brown’s proposal isn’t a silver bullet. It won’t magically restore education budgets and finally lift the state out of sluggish job growth. More needs to be done to make the state government more efficient. The state needs to reprioritize by finding ways to decrease the percentage of the budget dedicated to prisons and the correctional system in a responsible way. Two props on the ballot (Proposition 34 to end the death penalty, and Proposition 36 to repeal the three-strikes law) alongside Proposition 30 can help accomplish this goal.

What the state really needs is a complete overhaul of its revenue and spending system. I would love to see a ballot initiative doing just that, ensuring stable funding for education and stabilizing tax revenue streams. I’d also love to see the flu virus eradicated and doctors who don’t put their hands in ice before an appointment. Until then, temporary tax increases help us bridge tough economic times and are vital for the future of the state.

I will continue to happily allow strangers to stab me in the arm at my own expense, because I know if I don’t, I’ll regret it.