Give Brown a Chance

After taking the oath of office on Jan. 3, Governor Jerry Brown wasted no time introducing a bold proposal to solve California’s budget crisis. His plan involves a combination of tax and fee increases and drastic spending cuts coupled with transfers of funding from the state to local governments, all of which are intended to help address a staggering state budget deficit that currently stands at $25.4 billion. The plan is far from perfect, but it is the right move to save California before it’s too late.

Many UC students have reacted negatively to Brown’s budget plan because it includes drastic cuts to an already-bleeding California system of higher education. As part of a package of across-the-board spending cuts totaling $12 billion, the UC and CSU systems face budget cuts of $500 million each, and tuition fees at California community colleges will rise from $26 to $36 per unit (still the lowest in the nation). Education officials fear that the plan will cripple the public university system’s ability to provide quality education to a large number of students, and they have warned that the proposal will require them to admit fewer students and further reduce pay for professors and workers.

Let’s be honest Đ the budget plan that Brown is suggesting is going to be “no picnic,” as they say. Brown has stated that, “What I propose will be painful. It’s going to take sacrifice from every sector of California.” He added, “For 10 years, this state has put together its budget with gimmicks, tricks and unrealistic expectations that have pushed this state deeper and deeper into debt. It’s time now to restore California to fiscal solvency.”

If the plan is going to work, voters will need to endorse a package of continued tax increases at the ballot box. If we fail to do that, our budget situation is guaranteed to get even worse. Somebody is going to have to deal with the situation at some point, and as Brown himself has noted, “It is better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing.”

Now, certainly nobody wants to see the quality of a University of California education go down, and most people do not want taxes to be raised in tough economic times. Yes, we have already had to deal with difficult tuition hikes and reduced course offerings. And perhaps worst of all, after years of wasteful spending, it is going to be difficult to trust the state government to spend responsibly.

But we all need to wake up and realize the reality of the situation. Crippled budgets simply do not magically fix themselves. Many of us live in a budgetary dream world in which the state’s financial problems can be solved without raising taxes or cutting spending on government programs. This is exactly that Đ a dream. To acknowledge the difficulty of our situation is not to present a political opinion; it is simply to understand the facts.

We should applaud Governor Brown for doing something that politicians rarely do. He has informed us of the harsh reality that our taxes need to go up and that state spending needs to go down, and he has done that publicly and unequivocally. One of the benefits of having a geriatric governor in office is that he is simply too old to worry about a career of endless reelection campaigns. This allows him to tell it like it is and open the eyes of Californians to the reality that we face.

That reality is simple. Everyone is going to have to make sacrifices in order to fix the state’s financial problems. Taxes have to go up, and spending has to be reduced, or things are going to get even worse. As a former California community college student and a recipient of UC financial aid myself, I recognize the vital need for the state to invest heavily in education and give students of all backgrounds the opportunity to attend great schools.

But I also understand that sacrifice is necessary at this pivotal moment in California. If Governor Brown’s budget plan is executed as outlined, we can look forward to a day when a balanced California budget is a reality. At that point, the state will have the resources to invest in education without having to hemorrhage money to do so.

Refusal to accept reality will do nothing for us. Continuing to live in a fantasy world where nobody needs to make sacrifices and we can maintain low tax rates and massive government spending simply defers the problem to future generations. We simply can’t have our cake and eat it too. Yes, the state may have acted irresponsibly in the past, but to give them nothing to work with now is more of a self-punishment than it is a punishment of the government. And yes, we are all upset about tuition constantly being raised, but refusing to make sacrifices to fix California’s budget is a virtual guarantee that UC tuition will continue to be hiked toward private school prices.

Governor Brown’s budget plan is not being imposed on California by force. It is up to us; it depends on whether or not you and I vote for the tax increases and other ballot initiatives that will allow the plan to materialize. It would be hypocritical for us to claim we are concerned about the budget and not vote for the taxes that would fix it. All of us would do well to consider California’s current financial situation and vote to enact the changes that will be needed to fix it. The decision we make will affect Californians for generations.

Charles Hicks is a fourth-year religious studies major. He can be reached at cbhicks@uci.edu.