Creates Temporary Taxes To Prevent Budget Cuts In Education, Public Safety, And Social Services
Bend the Arc strongly endorses Proposition 30 as an indispensable measure for preventing devastating cuts to the state’s education, public safety, and social service systems. Proposition 30 addresses the fact that California is facing a major budget shortfall due largely, though not solely, to an inability to increase revenue because of the Proposition 13-mandated two-thirds vote requirement for raising taxes. This measure would increase taxes for the next seven years on earnings over $250,000 (or over $500,000 for joint tax-return filers) by 1 to 3 percentage points. In addition, it would temporarily raise California’s sales tax from 7.25% to 7.50% for the next four years.
The passage of Proposition 30 would raise an estimated $6.8 billion to $9 billion in revenue for 2012-13 and from $5.4 billion to $7.6 billion, on average, in the ensuing five fiscal years. New revenue would first go into the general fund, which would help fund the mandate of Proposition 98. Passed in 1988, Proposition 98 requires that a minimum amount of state funds be spent on education. Thus, Proposition 30 would not necessarily lead to an increase in education funding, but would instead maintain current levels of funding and prevent further cuts. Any additional funds would support public safety and education. Of the funds earmarked for schools, 89% would go to K-12 education and 11% would go to community colleges. These funds may not be used for administrative costs and would be required to undergo an annual audit to ensure that they are spent correctly.
Bend the Arc believes that a fair, progressive tax structure is essential to the creation of an equitable society. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society that meets the needs of its most vulnerable citizens and supports the structures that make it possible for anyone to prosper. On the whole, Proposition 30 would have an important effect. It is progressive because it would increase the income taxes of high-income earners, those who can most afford it. Although it has a regressive component due to a temporary quarter cent ($0.0025) sales tax increase, 90% of the revenues it is expected to generate would come from wealthy Californians. Nonetheless, this measure represents an important step toward creating a fairer tax system that provides revenue for much-needed investments and services. Currently California’s tax burden falls heavily on middle- and working-class individuals; Proposition 30 would help to change this through a tax increase on the wealthy, who today pay the lowest income tax in decades and the new sales tax rate of 7.50% would still be lower than it was prior to 2011.
Two core Jewish values provide support to this proposition. Our Jewish textual tradition teaches us that building a just society requires all those who have been blessed to share in its opportunities to share in its burdens. We are obligated to share our resources equitably. In describing how taxes are assessed on city residents, the ancient Mishnah (Peah 8:7) makes explicit the standards expected of the community in combating poverty. Support for communal kitchens, burial societies, and infrastructure were all included. This is not an isolated directive, but rather a thread that weaves through the Talmud (Baba Bathra 7b-8b) and it is codified in the medieval law codes (Maimonides, Laws of the Obligations to the Poor, Chapter 9).
More specifically, our traditions place great weight on the task of educating our children and on maintaining a sound educational system. The Talmud contains many statements whose very hyperbole—“The world only exists because of the breath of young students” and “Any city which does not support a school will be destroyed” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 119b)—points to the centrality of education in Jewish values. As the history of the Jewish community in the last century attests, public education is the vehicle by which a younger generation is provided access to the resources and rewards of this country. Jewish immigrant parents struggled to ensure that their children ascended the ladder of social mobility through public education. As a result, we, the beneficiaries of our forebears’ generosity, must continue this great legacy by working to ensure that other aspects of the common good are in place.
While Proposition 30 is not a permanent or perfect solution, Bend the Arc believes that this measure is an important first step that will provide much needed revenue. In order for California to overcome its current fiscal challenges and prevent the further dismantling of California’s public education system, Bend the Arc strongly urges all Californians to vote YES on Proposition 30.