Despite miscount, ASI votes in favor of Prop. 30

Many Fresno State student government senators left the Associated Students, Inc. meeting Wednesday believing that a resolution in support of Proposition 30 had failed to pass.

However, after a recount, it was discovered that one senator, Anthony Guzman, who was absent for the vote, had been counted as voting “no.”

After correcting the mistake, the final tally stood 7-6 in favor of the resolution.

As a result Fresno State’s ASI, and the student body it represents, now officially support Proposition 30.

Resolutions are a statement of ASI’s official support on certain subjects, said vice president of external affairs Sean Kiernan said.

“Proposition 30 passing is obviously quite directly in the interest of CSU students,” Kiernan said. “The problem with the CSU for this is that the state budget is written assuming it will pass so if it fails several trigger cuts will be enacted, one of which is a quarter-billion dollar cut to the CSU system.”

Kiernan said that while traditionally ASI did not take positions on ballot initiatives such as Proposition 30, the direct effect the proposition would have on the CSU system should it fail necessitated ASI involvement.

Proposition 30, which will face voter approval in November, would increase the income tax on those making over $250,000 a year by one to three percent. It would also increase the state sales tax rate by a quarter of a percent.

Kiernan said should the proposition fail, the CSU system would face what he described as a “financial earthquake.”

Kiernan, who was vocal in his support of the resolution, said $20 million of that $250 million cut would be absorbed by Fresno State.

Proposed plans to offset those potential cuts include a $150 increase to tuition and a 6,000-student reduction in Fresno State’s enrollment.

“It’s also possible that entire programs will be eliminated,” Kiernan said. “A proposal was, since Bakersfield is so close to us, they’d maybe eliminate some of our programs because you don’t need duplicate programs in the same area.”

While Kiernan and a majority of student senators present were in support of the resolution, other senators raised concerns about the validity of the proposition.

Sen. Neil O’Brien described the proposition as scare tactics.

“I will not support this,” O’Brien said. “I think the kinds of resolutions that we should be thinking about are probably making a resolution to support cutting the salaries of the upper administration.”

Kiernan responded critically to the idea.

“You could take the top 100 highest-paid CSU academic officers and slash their salaries in half,” Kiernan said.  “That would not help us very much and it wouldn’t do anything to negate the trigger cuts we’re facing.”

According to an article published by the Sacramento Bee in July of last year, the 100 highest-paid CSU workers made $23.8 million in 2010, a 4.5 percent reduction since 2008.

Halving those salaries would result in a $11.9 million spending cut, or 21 percent of the $250 million cut should Proposition 30 fail.

Another issue that opponents of the resolution raised was wasteful spending.

A particular target was the new parking lot between Woodrow and Backer Avenues, which according to the Fresno Bee costed $4 million and raised protests over the elimination of 160 trees.

“What would $4 million in just this university have done to tuition?” O’Brien asked. “How many people could have gone to school with $4 million? The issue isn’t a lack of funding, it’s financial irresponsibility.”

Sen. Moses Menchaca echoed those concerns.

“It seems like every year the issue is that Fresno State doesn’t have enough money,” Menchaca said. “It’s not the issue of not enough funding, it’s how our funding is being spent. Not only is there salaries, there’s compensations. There’s other incentives or things that more executives are getting that can be looked at.”

Sen. Sarah McMaster agreed with the resolution’s opponents that wasteful spending was an issue but remained in support of the resolution.

“I agree those are issues that we need to look at but not under a huge strain already,” McMaster said.

Ultimately, the vote was counted as 7-7, which left the issue to Parmita Choudhury, ASI’s executive vice president.

Choudhury declined to vote and the resolution presumably failed with no challenge from any senator present.

It was noted after the meeting was adjourned that two senators, Guzman and Fernando Moreno, were absent during the vote and 14 votes would be impossible with only 13 of 15 senators present.

ASI coordinator Tara Powers-Mead recounted the voting sheet tallied by senate recorder Katrina Alaniz and found the mistake that Guzman, who later said he was in support of the resolution, had been counted as voting “no.”

All parties described the mistake as simple human error.

“It’s honestly a very simple mistake,” Powers-Mead said. “It’s definitely something that’s very rare and if a mistake does happen we usually catch it in the meeting.”

O’Brien said the same, and accepted the resolution’s passage as a result.

“That’s a simple mistake and that’s coming from someone who opposed it,” O’Brien said. “We’ve only had four meetings this semester so far and people are still getting used to things.”

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