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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Prop. 92 Would Further Bind Hands of the Legislature

In February, Californians will be asked to vote on a measure that purports to improve our state’s community colleges , Proposition 92.

While we support community colleges and the role they play in educating Californians, it is important to consider the details of Proposition 92 before we cast our ballots for or against the measure.

First of all, it is important to understand that Proposition 92 would amend the state constitution to lock in a huge new funding mandate for community colleges , with no means to pay for it.

As we read headlines regularly about our state’s climbing budget deficit, it is difficult to understand how we could pass a measure that the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates will cost us nearly $1 billion in the first three years.

Simply stated, it would be irresponsible for us to put into our constitution a permanent funding source for one higher education system in the manner that Proposition 92 prescribes.


No Way To Pay

And because Proposition 92 includes no way to pay for these increases, politicians would be left to decide where we will get the money.

Politicians could raise the sales tax or levy new taxes on other items, or even increase our income taxes to pay for what would be required by this measure.

If Proposition 92 passes, our already overburdened general fund would be subject to additional pressure and, quite possibly, Californians will see major cuts to other important programs.

Additionally, Proposition 92 expands bureaucracy, but contains no accountability or independent oversight. Proposition 92 requires no public audits and there is no mechanism that would allow us to know how the money is spent or if it will actually go to help students.

Further, while proponents claim the measure increases access to education, Proposition 92 does nothing to help low income college students with costs, as they already have their tuition fees waived.

In fact, according to the state legislative analyst, about one-fourth of community college students pay no educational fees

at all.

A March study prepared for the Hewlett Foundation by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found that 52 percent of full-time community college students have their fees waived due to financial need.


Lowest Rates

Also, for those students who are paying tuition, they are already investing in their education at one of the lowest rates of any state in the country.

The amount an average community college student would save as the result of Proposition 92’s passage would amount to less than the cost of one textbook per semester.

Finally, as we contemplate Proposition 92, it is important to consider the fact that this measure would prioritize one higher education system over the others in our state.

While the business community fully understands the valuable role community colleges play, it would be unfair to make one system superior to the others in our state from a guaranteed funding perspective.

The state Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, Small Business Action Committee, California Taxpayers Association, California Teachers Association, California Faculty Association, University of California system, California State University system and League of Women Voters of California all oppose Proposition 92.

Employers, teachers, taxpayers and community groups are voting “No” on Proposition 92 because it is just too costly for our state.

The bottom line is this: If voters increase funding and reduce existing revenue, somebody must pay.

At this point, it is unclear who will suffer the consequences if Proposition 92 passes. Community colleges have a tough job and provide a valuable service. However, there is simply no free lunch. Responsible taxpayers have no choice but to vote no on 92.


Allan Zaremberg is president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

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