For the first time in California’s history, our state government spent more money on prisons than higher education.
It’s a shocking figure – but not a surprising one when you consider how much education is being cut: close to $800 million from the University of California and over $1 billion from the budgets of the California State University and California Community College systems combined.
As a result, tuition at our public universities has skyrocketed by over 30 percent – just as you and thousands of other students are forced to endure budget cuts, slashed enrollment, impossible waitlists and reduced course offerings.
My own parents worked as janitors so that I could be the first in my family to go to college. I know firsthand that the true spirit of California opportunity and optimism is nurtured in great schools.
That is why I am fighting to fund California colleges and universities by requiring Big Oil to pay their fair share for the oil they pump out of our state’s land and water. California can no longer afford to be the only major oil-producing state that doesn’t levy such a fee. Texas, for instance, generates $400 million for higher education through a similar fee.
My bill, AB 656, would raise up to $2 billion a year for UC, CSU and community colleges with a 12.5 percent tax on oil extracted within California. That’s considerably less than the 25 percent tax levied in Sarah Palin’s Alaska.
The fight to save higher education won’t be easy. The oil companies will tell you that they already pay enough taxes and that this bill will result in jobs lost. Yet oil companies have been experiencing record-breaking profits for the past several years. Exxon Mobile, for instance, raked in a $45.2 billion profit in 2008, the most ever by a publicly-traded U.S. company.
More money for higher education means more classes and more financial aid for you.
Momentum continues to build for AB 656. We are more than halfway to reaching our goal of organizing over 100,000 supporters, which will make it one of the most significant grassroots efforts in California’s legislative history. AB 656 has also garnered the support of the 700,000-member Courage Campaign – a powerful online network of progressive activists.
And you’ve made your voices heard by organizing some of the largest and most impassioned on-campus protests in memory. Keep putting the pressure on Sacramento by participating in one of many events taking place across the state today. Get involved – AB 656 is a simple and fair solution to funding our universities and colleges in California and it needs your support.
Please join me and over 8,500 Facebook supporters in fighting for higher education at Facebook.com/FairTuition, and join 60,000 other concerned Californians who have already signed a petition at AlbertoTorrico.com/Fair-Share-for-Fair-Tuition.