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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Guest Editorial: The Norquist Spectacle

I read the editorial on Sept. 22 titled “It’s going to be a bumpy ride” with great emotion. The California Aggie asked readers whom we should blame for the rising cost of our education. Fortunately, I know who is to blame for the rising tuition rates, at least this year.

But with most good stories, it comes with a little backtracking. This time it is November 2010 on Election Day. Democrats defeated Republicans in every state office election held from governor down to Attorney General, symbolizing California as a blue state. It held the executive office, as well as both houses of the legislature, with majorities of 25-15 in the Senate and 52-28 in the Assembly.

Jerry Brown emerged with a balanced plan to tackle the looming budget deficit of approximately $26 billion that would face California. In January, he released “…a draconian budget plan that would slash $12.5 billion in spending and extend $12 billion in tax hikes.” (CNN Money) That will be some fund shifts for the remainder. One of Jerry Brown’s campaign promises was to not raise taxes unless approved by the majority of the voters and he kept his word by planning a June special election.

Jerry Brown cut half of the budget deficit by spending cuts in March. Some new revenue streamed in and by late spring, the budget deficit stood at $9.6 billion. Unfortunately, the proposed special election to extend the income, sales and car registration taxes for five years did not come because the tax extensions were interpreted as tax increases by the Republicans.

Did I say Republicans? I apologize, those are people we elect and can hold accountable. I am talking about the national anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform. The founder of this organization is Grover Norquist.

“All of California’s Republican legislators in both houses have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, except Senator Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Senator Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo … no Democratic legislators have signed the pledge.” (Sacramento Bee Blogs)

The group’s State Affairs Director Patrick Gleason said that voting to put a tax vote to the people is breaking that pledge. “We count that as an assist. It’s not a direct score, but it’s an assist,” Gleason said.

This is utterly absurd. Do they not believe that citizens can adequately judge the pros and cons of an alternative and turn away tax extensions? If your precious group is so adamant that you have the greater public interest in mind, why do you need a no-tax pledge in the first place?

But James, you said that the Democrats have majority in both houses and the executive office. Why couldn’t they get what they wanted? The answer is Proposition 13. Prop 13 imposed that in order to raise taxes, you must receive two-thirds vote in each legislative house for it to pass and, apparently, for it to go to the people for a vote. Jerry Brown needed to muster two Republican seats from each house to earn the two-thirds majority. He tried for over five months, but no budge. A non-Californian who holds no political office has more political power than our elected governor and the result is another $150 million dollars taken from UC and CSU in June.

I have seen my UC tuition rate rise over 50 percent over a three-year span. Do you know that last year student loan debt exceeded credit card debt in this country? Also, more funding was acquired by private means (tuition) than by public means (state funding), making us a more private than public university. How many sports teams and majors must be cut before we realize that we are getting the short end of this? Please voice your opinions, discuss this in your classes and let us take back our university system so that future generations can look upon it as a great educational system, not one on the decline since the 20th century.


  1. Most of your article is intelligent, but the minute that you state the grandiose belief that all Californians are intelligent enough to know when taxes are good/bad for them, read as:

    “Do they not believe that citizens can adequately judge the pros and cons of an alternative and turn away tax extensions?”

    your argument disintegrates. There are still millions of Americans (and Californians) who naively believe that raising taxes on the rich and extending taxes against corporations is beneficial to the economy. Take this generic example: Californians believe that they should increase/maintain tax levels against corporations. The large majority of Californians are not the leaders of these corporations, or small business owners who are drastically affected by the high corporate and business taxes. California is the 49th (it may actually be 50th now) worst state in the US to run a business. Therefore by making it a vote, you allow the majority of citizens, who are frankly not informed about the drastic effects of high taxes on business in the state, to dictate taxes on companies. Eventually business will entirely leave CA (which many are trying to do) causing an armageddon-like downfall of the CA economy, not to mention the UC system.

    Please, consider that businesses and corporations are entirely underrepresented when it comes to determining taxes (I know they are just sooo evil, because they provide jobs and revenue streams and donations to the universities). In order to improve CA’s economy (and in turn halt fee hikes) we need to make CA an attractive place for businesses to come. At the current moment the only reason people still live in California is because of the natural beauty and the irreplaceable farming industry.



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