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Davis, California

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Garamendi talks student fees, green jobs

Fees and tuition at California colleges are rising rapidly, and California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi says it’s up to students to change that.

Garamendi spoke at a Davis College Democrats rally on campus on Friday in front of an audience of about 85 people. He gave a rousing and energetic speech touching on national and regional political issues, including the federal Wall Street bailout and the state budget deal.

The main focus of his message, however, was the impact that student fee increases are having on California’s higher education system.

“A free public education no longer exists in California,” he said. “The taxes that were increased in this [state] budget were miniscule except for one. The single biggest tax increase was a tax on students.”

In an interview with The Aggie after the rally, Garamendi tied fee increases to the health of the state’s economy.

“The ever-increasing fees are keeping qualified students out of the university,” he said. “Ten thousand young men and women did not enter the state university system this fall because there was inadequate funding. Four years from now those are 10,000 engineers, nurses, teachers, social workers, philosophers, writers, journalists who will not be available to work in the California economy.”

Garamendi, who is also a UC Regent, said the only way to stop fee increases was for students to stand up for themselves.

“Right now the trustees at the CSU system and the regents are taxing the students,” he said. “The students need to rise up and raise hell. If that doesn’t happen then this fee increase will continue.”

The state’s economy depends on a highly educated workforce, he said, and the seventh wealthiest economy in the world should be able to afford to educate its workforce.

In his speech at the rally, Garamendi also talked about the presidential election and what is at stake.

“You look back on the recent history of this nation and it is common that the vice president becomes the president,” he said. “When a person makes a choice about who they choose to be their successor … you’re making a statement about your values as president. You’re making a statement about how you perceive the nation’s future.”

ASUCD Senator Tracey Zeng was in the audience at the rally and said she agreed with what the lieutenant governor had to say.

“I thought what he said about prioritizing students is absolutely crucial in this election,” she said.

Zeng, who also works with CalPIRG, said students need to get more involved.

“[We need] to ensure students show politicians that they can’t put students in the position of choosing between rent and tuition.”

Garamendi announced in July that he would run for governor of California in 2010, when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term expires. He is currently on a statewide “listening tour” of California college campuses to find out what issues are most important to students.

Also speaking at the rally were state Representative Lois Wolk (D-Davis) who is running for a seat in the state senate, and Yolo County supervisor Mariko Yamada, who is running for Wolk’s spot in the state assembly.

Wolk, who faces a particularly competitive race for the open senate seat, criticized opponent Greg Aghazarian, also a state Representative.

“I am running in the senate against someone who won’t even mention the fact that he’s a Republican,” she said. “He won’t mention his party. He’s not proud he’s a Republican.”

She went on to list a series of bills opposed by Republicans in the state legislature recently, including flood protection for Central Valley homeowners and an effort to ban lead from candy.

More excerpts from interview with California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi:

On student fees and the cost of higher education

The California economy
and society was really built on the best free public education system in the world. The
result of [fee increases] is that many middle income students and low income students
don’t get into the university of California. The ever increasing fees are keeping
qualified students out of the university. 

Now, the fact is that
the continuation of this will harm our economy and pull the rungs out of the economic
ladder for young men and women in the state. It’s called a fee but in reality it is a
tax. Instead of raising the revenue to support the university from the wealth of the
economy — that is, the overall wealth of the economy — the money is extracted directly
from the students and the families that attend the university. 

It’s a tax, plain
and simple, and it is a particularly stupid tax. It literally is akin to eating your seed
corn, which is not a good thing to do. The state is not supporting the universities.
That’s a starvation diet. 

To address that the
university has turned to the students. Two bad things happened. One, students can’t
afford it, they end their college experience with a large amount of debt, and their
ability to enter fields of service is limited because they’ve got to pay off their
debt. In addition to that you wind up with a lot of students not going to school that
otherwise would have. 

Right now the trustees
at the CSU system and the regents are taxing the students. The legislature and the
governor must be faced with the question. The students need to rise up and raise hell. If
that doesn’t happen then this fee increase will continue. We did a rally last year; we
had about 3000 students march on the capitol, and we’re gonna have to do that
again. 

Two and a half million
Californians are in college campuses right now. That’s just a little less than 8
percent, and those are just the students. Most of the students have two relatives who may
actually be paying for their education. 

The impact of
education budget cuts on the economy

The important thing is
that the economy and society depend upon a highly educated workforce. A highly educated
workforce is the only way to continue the strength of the California economy, and when
you raise fees, you eliminate students. And when you refuse to pay for the education, as
the legislature and governor did this year, you deny opportunity to students and
therefore hurt the California economy. Ten thousand young men and women did not enter the
state university system this fall because there was inadequate funding. Four years from
now those are 10,000 engineers, nurses, teachers, social workers, philosophers, writers,
journalists who will not be available to work in the California economy. 

The seventh wealthiest
economy in the world can afford to educate its workforce. I know that if I were asked to
pay an additional 10 percent, I would be upset, and that’s what’s gonna happen.
The governor is already discussing an additional 10 percent fee increase, the Regents are
already discussing an additional fee increase this year. If I were a student, I’d be
marching on the capitol. I’d be organizing. I’d certainly be voting in this
year’s election. And since I care a lot about students, we’re gonna help organize
students.

On the Lt.
Gov.’s readiness for his upcoming campaign for governor

I’ve won six
statewide races. I know how to campaign and I know how to win. In the intervening years I
was able to acquire additional experience and knowledge. In the 1980s [I was] majority
leader of the senate… working on the budgets as one of the members of the conference
committee. 

I’m ready to be
governor. I’ve got the experience that no other candidate has. Jerry Brown’s been
governor, fine. He’s never worked in Washington. And neither have the mayors.
They’re good people — they’re all good people. I’ve got experience and
understanding and knowledge, and I’m prepared to lead, and that’s
necessary.

On how to solve
California’s budget problems

We knew in January of
this year that there was going to be a severe deficit, a severe budget problem. You have
to begin working immediately with legislature to seek a solution. Gov. Schwarzenegger
didn’t do that, nor did the legislature work together to seek a solution to really
get ahead of the problem and to begin the day-to-day work of finding a solution. Now,
they came together in February and they did emergency cuts, but those were all cuts. And
those cuts, some of them were ephemeral. They really didn’t cut, they just changed
the accounting schemes. 

Anyway, you’ve got
to start in January to build the compromise that you’re going to need in June to put a
budget together. The governor really waited until August to develop a compromise, and the
negotiations really didn’t begin until August — the serious negotiations to fix the
budget problems. 

As governor,
you’ve got to force the negotiations. I’ve said this many times. You invite the
legislative leaders to the office, lock the doors, put the coffee on, put the bedrolls
out, and when it’s done they can leave. That’s just a matter of forcing the
issue. You don’t wait until August to do that, or September, which is what the
governor basically did. 

You’ve got to go
to the public. You’ve got to tell them the truth, and the fact of the matter is we
have a structural deficit caused by the elimination of the car tax. Gov.
Schwarzenegger’s first day in office eliminated the car tax and caused the budget
deficit that has plagued his administration for five years. So, you need to develop a
package of revenues that addresses that problem. Again, that’s the knowledge and
scale of understanding what kind of revenues would be sufficient and would actually help
rather than harm the California economy.

On climate change
and the future

Among the many issues
that confront California is the climate change issue, and with a lot of credit to Gov.
Schwarzenegger, he has been a true international leader on climate change, both in
raising the alarm and in developing solutions. This, however, is only the beginning and
only the first steps of what we’re going to have to do in California to address this
issue. We have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and secondly, we have to adapt to
the inevitable changes. 

The adaptation occurs
in water systems, healthcare systems, public health, flood, sanitation. We’re going
to have an extraordinary cost associated with the rising sea level. You’ll have heavy
costs and needs in the area of public health as tropical diseases find their way into
California. 

The other side is on
the reduction of greenhouse gases. 2.5 million Californians are on college campuses.
Those campuses need to be green. So we need to push the Regents to green the
campuses. 

We have to prepare the
work force. The engineers, the researchers, yes; but also the mechanics, the electricians,
the plumbers that are going to be necessary to do the conservation systems on campuses, in
homes and businesses, as well as build the new energy systems, whether those are biofuels
or solar and wind. The green jobs are exceedingly important. The college campuses are an
exceptionally important place for the education of tomorrow’s work force for these
green jobs. And we’re talking about tens of thousands of men and women that need to
be trained — some with postdoctoral training, some with apprenticeship training as
plumbers. 

Just for example, if
you’re going to do a biofuel ethanol plant, you’re talking about serious
plumbing, serious welding, electrical systems, carpentry systems, all of which we need
highly skilled men and women to do those tasks. It’s not just the financier, it’s
not just the engineer that may design the system, but the people to build those systems,
people to maintain the wind turbines. There will be thousands of wind turbines, and these
are big machines. Like an automobile, somebody needs to go up there and make sure the
oil’s in the gears, or the electrical systems are working. This will be a major
task. 

[We need funding for]
career technical education in high school and in the community colleges. Expansion of
engineering programs at UC Davis and so forth. We have to educate the workforce, and in
order to do that well we have to integrate the business community into the education
system so that the education is relevant to the needs of the business community, so that
the engineering is not about 18th century or 19th century production, it’s about 21st
century production, so it becomes relevant to the needs of the economy.

 

On high speed
rail

In 1988 Assemblyman
Jerry Costa and Senator John Garamendi offered the first laws for establishing a high
speed rail system. I’ve supported it ever since. 

 

JEREMY OGUL can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.

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