California State Assembly
to vote on Severance Tax initiative

Written by John Han. Posted in News, Politics

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Published on March 12, 2008 with 4 Comments

Teachers, families, union leaders and elected officials held a rally yesterday in San Francisco
to protest education budget cuts proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By John Han

March 12, 2008

The California State Assembly is expected to vote today on a bill to place a 6 percent severance tax on every barrel of oil produced in the state.

If passed, the bill would be used to mitigate Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal to slash nearly $5 billion in education this year.

Those cuts come as part of a 10 percent reduction in spending statewide, in light of a $14.5 billion budget deficit looming over California’s economy.

Hundreds of Bay Area teachers joined parents, elected officials, and labor leaders yesterday at a rally in San Francisco to protest the cuts that includes 535 layoffs in the San Francisco Unified School District as well as $40 million in slashed funds.

The California Teachers Association says that more than 8000 teachers have received pink slips statewide.

According to Assemblyman Mark Leno, California is the only state out of 22 oil-producing states in the U.S. that does not have a severance tax. He says the bill could generate as much $1 billion in annual revenues.

He said Democrats in the Assembly will propose a 2 percent windfall profit tax on the oil companies.

“We’re going to put that money directly to mitigate teacher layoffs and save public education,” Leno said to teachers and families attending yesterday’s rally. “Our kids are too important, our teachers are too important.”

California Assemblymember Mark Leno

Dennis Kelly, President of the United Educators of San Francisco, says Schwarzenegger’s fiscal crisis is nothing short of what the governor himself has single-handedly created.

Kelly and other elected Democrats blame the Republican Governor’s budget deficit on his repeal of the Vehicle License Fee in 2003. The law, a 2 percent sales tax on the purchase price of automobiles, has been in place for over 50 years. But Schwarzenegger, who, according to Kelly ran his campaign on rescinding the Vehicle License Fee, rescinded the tax in his first Executive Order as Governor. California, since then, has been paying money from the general fund to its local governments for lost revenues.

“He has created by eliminating the Vehicle License Fee, a deficit that is around $12 billion dollars,” Kelly said. “We should not be making cuts in education and social services because of his ambition, and what he wanted to do to run for governor.”

United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly

In addition to the severance tax, a proposal introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, has been included in the mayor’s budget. The ‘Rainy Day Fund’ would put $31 million dollars of the city’s general fund towards San Francisco schools to ameliorate the governor’s cuts. Mayor Gavin Newsom praised Ammiano for his foresight and said the money will be used to help protect San Francisco teachers and schools.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano

“This city is not going to sit back and wait for a solution from the state,” Newsom said “So for those teachers out there that are worried about their jobs, know that that money exists and we’re committed to sending it over to the school district.”

He added, “But make no mistake. We should not have to do that, Governor Schwarzenegger. We should not be forced to be in a position where we’ve got to set our city money over to deal with the public schools.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom

Newsom told reporters that he feels certain there will be significant cuts at the state-level, but he said he doesn’t expect the California Assembly to agree to the $4.8 billion cuts proposed by Schwarzenegger. He said that the governor, in the end, might likely agree to new taxes to offset the state’s budget shortfall.

That could come as a relief to Danielle Munson, a Language Arts teacher at Rooftop Elementary School in San Francisco. She heard on the night before the rally that she was going to be issued a pink slip. Munson says that even before the governor’s proposed cuts, her school has been under-funded.

“All of us are still going to work just as hard as we always have. But sometimes when you’re putting in twelve to thirteen hour days, and you don’t feel like you’re going to have a job next year, it’s really demoralizing and depressing,” Munson said. “And I have a mortgage to pay. I may just have to leave, and that would be really sad.”

California currently ranks 46th in the country in per-pupil annual expenditures, spending less than $7,100 per student, according to an Education Coalition report. Should the state assembly agree to Schwarzenegger’s cuts, California would fall to last place.


Comments for California State Assembly
to vote on Severance Tax initiative
are now closed.

  1. grrrrrr

  2. Thank you to FCJ for your coverage of this issue.

    For what it’s worth, I work at small high school that is currently facing cuts of nearly $700,000 — nearly half its annual budget. We are facing the loss of up to six full-time teachers and four paraprofessionals. Included on the chopping block are teachers who provide extracurricular lunchtime and after school activities, and paraprofessionals who provide invaluable language support and parent liaison services. At least one of the paraprofessionals who faces a pink slip — or at best, consolidation — has been at the school for nearly two decades.

    California is a tremendously wealthy state. What we face collectively is not necessarily a budget crisis due to lower than expected tax revenues, but a crisis of political courage on the part of our elected leaders. When they should be reexamining our taxation policies, and calling for higher taxes, they instead take the easy way out and target our educational system.

  3. Good coverage. I just put up my own version over at “Civic Center.” I was wondering, by the way, whether or not if it was Newsom who had come up with the educational “rainy day fund,” but of course he didn’t, it was Ammiano. He was just taking credit for somebody else’s ideas yet again. Thanks for the confirmation.

  4. Thanks for great photos of the rally, Luke!

    Raging Grannies are (many of us) former teachers and are on the scene for any demonstration that is pro-education, pro-kids, and anti-Arnie. This rally sure covered all the above.