The tax quandary

Californians know budget cuts are killing higher ed, but they refuse to raise taxes

According to a recent Field Poll, two-thirds of Californians disapproved of the so-called “trigger cuts” that went into effect Dec. 13, including another $100 million from the California State University that increased its total cuts for the year to $750 million.

That brings funding for the system to an even $2 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the lowest level since 1997-98, when the CSU had 90,000 fewer students.

A November poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that a strong majority of Californians believes that higher education is under-funded, has been affected “a lot” by budget cuts, and is headed in the wrong direction. Three-quarters said students must borrow too much money, and 63 percent said further cuts would hurt the quality of education.

And yet, when asked whether they were willing to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding, only 45 percent said yes.

California’s in big trouble when citizens recognize its public universities are running desperately short of funds but are unwilling to increase their taxes slightly to rectify the situation.