Schwarzenegger’s tax increases

Jack Forbes is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis

The new governor has taken the “no new taxes” position characteristic of right-wing Republicans, but he already has reneged. The increased tuition higher-education students and parents will have to pay obviously is a form of taxation, a type of use tax very similar to a sales tax. If one doesn’t buy an item, one doesn’t pay the tax; similarly, if one doesn’t enroll for a course, one doesn’t pay the fee charged.

Clearly, what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done is give almost $4 billion back to vehicle owners and then turn around and take it away from local governments. Local governments scrambled to have their citizens vote on new local taxes to keep fire protection, law enforcement, etc. going. The governor then returned some funds to local governments, but, again, he has taken part of that back to relieve the state deficit.

The $4 billion given back to vehicle owners has been a boon to auto dealers and a big break for owners of expensive cars and trucks. But what about the parents of middle- and working-class youths, who now must tax themselves to pay for higher tuition? And the increases for those trying to earn a master’s degree (now necessary in many fields) are outrageous—up to 40 percent.

Since the Proposition 13 revolution in local-government financing and the Reagan-Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, we are finding it very difficult to pay for a society that cares for all of its members. That is, in fact, at the crux of California’s present dilemma.

Republicans continue to pursue a policy of de-funding the public sector and forcing ordinary people to pay the costs of services that are the responsibility of society as a whole. California needs an educated population. Schwarzenegger should be pushing for the elimination of tuition rather than developing plans to increase it at a rate of 10 percent per year into the future. Local people should not be forced to raise their sales taxes to provide fire, police and other essential services. “No new taxes,” at least the way this governor means it, is simply a con game.