Republicans deny higher education and voters voice

California’s higher education is at a crucial juncture.

The budget crisis facing the California State University system is well-documented: a potential $500 million cut to its 2011-12 budget, ever-increasing tuition and a total $281 million budget reduction among the 23 campuses if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget is approved.

But, amid Brown’s austere yet well-balanced budget, there is an opportunity for Californians to stanch the further desecration of the state’s education.

That is, if Republicans cooperate.

The governor is proposing a five-year extension of several temporary tax increases enacted in 2009. He wants to maintain the 1-cent increase to sales tax, the 0.5 percent increase to vehicle license fees and a 0.25 percent increase in personal income taxes.

These taxes, individually, are barely perceptible; on the whole, in a state with more than 36 million people, they can greatly aid the state in its attempt to dissolve a $26 billion deficit.

Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers are again showing their petulance, refusing to even allow the tax increases to go on the ballot in June unless Brown agrees to a list of 53 demands.

Never mind the potential $11 billion in annual revenue,that the increase would create. Never mind the $1 billion reduction to the CSU system if not approved. And never mind that 58 percent of voters approve of the extension, according to a March 16 Field Poll.

The Republicans are holding firm.

They are showing once again that bipartisanship is only viable to the extent their base allows.

Still, Republicans, if not willing to support the increases, should at least support the idea of letting the voters decide.

Higher education would benefit from the increases – as would the state in general. After all the students of California have endured, they deserve at least some protection.

However, the legislature’s continuing dysfunction is discouraging. It is stalling budget talks and forcing the CSU system and this University (remember the college merger that is on hold) into an unnecessary waiting game.

California voters support these measures. They should have a voice.

Republicans, quit your obstructionism: This state should function as the direct democracy it is.

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