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 more than $1 billion from the budgets of Cal State University and California Community College systems combined.
As a result, tuition at our public universities has skyrocketed by more than 30 percent 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.
My bill, AB 656, would raise up to $2 billion a year for the 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 experienced 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.
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.
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 on March 4. Get involved—AB 656 is a simple and fair solution to funding our universities and colleges in California and it needs your support.
Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, is the Democratic Majority Leader and a candidate for California Attorney General. You can sign his petition at www.AlbertoTorrico.com/Fair-Share-For-A-Fair-Tuition.