Thursday, July 30, 2009

Changing priorities in California

Technically this is a state issue rather than a local Inland Empire issue, but considering that the state is more than likely going to balance its budget on the backs of the cities, the discussion is valid.

Sid's Side usually talks about (in Sid's words) "a light-hearted view of sports, family and friends, the community and some of my life experiences." But the state budgetary problems are affecting everyone, as Sid said in this post:

...forgive me while I get sidetracked by real life.

After discussing recent fee increases at California State University, Sid shares this observation:

What’s happening is that the financial responsibility for public colleges and universities is falling more and more on the true users of the product, rather than on the general state population as a whole. This is actually more in line with what happens in other states, and not necessarily a bad thing, but is a contradiction to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, a 1960 roadmap for the state’s three college systems – the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges – to guarantee any qualified California resident who wanted a college education the opportunity to receive one. But in the past 49 years, it seems the CSU has gone from state-supported to state-assisted to now just being state-located, and that guarantee is becoming harder to promise. Access to higher education is more difficult. It’s not to the point where public universities are being privatized, but with fewer state funds from taxpayers, college students have to cover a larger slice of the pie. Geez, is it really that long ago that state university fees were around $75 a quarter when I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona? Nah, 30 years isn’t really that long ago.

This is actually related to an issue that I explored in my Reed College undergraduate thesis, which examined the efficiency and equity of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. And it boils down to a question that affects every good or service that a government provides - is it better for the government to specifically charge users of the good or service in question, or are the benefits to society at large such that the costs should be allocated among a greater portion of the citizens?

Now we're never going to go to a completely "pay as you go" scheme, where you have to provide a credit card when reporting a burglary at your house, but it's easier to balance a budget by raising fees to service users than it is to raise taxes for everyone.

Whether this results in businesses saying, "I'm not going to go to California. They don't have educated workers" is open to question.

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