Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Arnold's bond measure 

In addition to the democratic primary, California voters will decide tomorrow on Schwarzenegger's $15 billion bond measure. I'm still torn about which way to vote. On the one hand, it's clear that California really needs this money. If the bond doesn't pass, Californians will face a big tax hike and even deeper service cuts. If I were voting purely on pragmatic grounds it would be an easy yes.

But I'm tempted to make a protest vote on the way Arnold has handled the budget crisis. First of all, he refused to consider raising taxes. That's partially forgivable as a matter of political necessity, but still, we're not talking about some run-of-the-mill budget deficit here; California's deficit is as big as those of all other 49 states combined! You're just not going to be able to solve a crisis of that magnitude by cutting services alone. But it gets worse. Arnold didn't just promise not to raise taxes; he actually cut taxes. Not only that, Arnold's repeal of the so-called "car tax" was his first act in office. That's right, as the governor to assume responsibility over the biggest fiscal crisis in the state's history, his first act was to implement a tax cut.

On top of this, the University of California has been hit particularly hard by budget cuts under both Davis and Schwarzenegger. I understand that everyone needs to share the deficit burden, and that means service cuts across the board. But cuts to UC funding have been just incredible. Arnold's budget for 2004-05 includes $372 million in additional cuts. That's 13% of the entire sum paid to UC by the state. The Chancellor's most recent letter addressing the cuts:

We have been asked to reduce freshman enrollment, raise student fees (with a particularly heavy burden on graduate students), scale back financial aid, reduce spending on faculty, eliminate K-12 outreach, and make deeper cuts to research, administration, and other programs. These proposals cut at our deepest-held values in higher education.

Graduate students faced 30% fee increases in 2003-04 and will face an additional 40% increase in 2004-05. Why should I pay 70% more in fees while everyone who owns a vehicle got a tax cut?

If I vote against the bond measure, it will not be a vote against Arnold personally. I have generally been impressed both by Arnold's moderate stances on the issues and by his willingness to compromise with Democrats in the legislature. His fiscal policy is the only thing that really bothers me.
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