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CLARIFICATION: COC officials encouraged by poll showing support for Gov’s tax hike

Clarifies relationship of Prop 38 to Prop 98's education funding apportionment

Posted: August 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

By Perry Smith

Signal Education Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative appeared to have a slim majority of support Wednesday — which would be an encouraging sign for community colleges’ budget outlook.

“It’s a tough one,” said Bruce Fortine, a Santa Clarita Community College District board member who also runs a business that helps small businesses find financing.

“As an elected official, you represent all the people. So as a representative of the college, I’m in favor of it,” Fortine said. “But I know that for small-business owners, another layer of taxes will continue to drive business out of state, as it’s already done.”

Proposition 30 — Brown’s measure calling for a quarter-cent sales-tax increase and an income-tax hike on those making more than $250,000 — holds 55 percent of voter support, according to an online poll by PACE and USC’s Rossier School of Business. Proposition 38, which is backed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger, raises nearly all income tax levels and carries support of about 40 percent of the voters, according to the poll.

The most significant difference in the two propositions for schools, particularly at the community college level, is that Brown’s proposal continues a practice mandated by Proposition 98, which apportions part of the revenue from a tax increase for “K-14” funding, which includes community colleges, said Eric Harnish, College of the Canyons’ interim managing director, government relations and advocacy.

Munger’s initiative would not affect the funding formula established by Proposition 98, but its new revenues would not be guaranteed for community colleges.

 As a taxpayer-funded entity, state law prohibits unelected state employees from advocating a ballot measure while working in an official capacity. But officials are watching the polls, Harnish said.

“All the school districts have felt the pain (of state budget cuts),” Harnish said. “They’re all watching this very closely.”

Since schools had to approve a June budget, and officials won’t know exactly how much revenue the state will be able to provide in November; the school had to budget as though it would receive a $4.6 million cut, Harnish said.

The shortfall is part of why the school has 10,000 students on its waiting list, he said. The school has an enrollment of about 15,000 students, according to school officials.

While support in the high-50s to 60s is considered a promising sign for an initiative, it’s still far too early to make predictions on what voters might do, Harnish said.

“I certainly think you’ll see a lot more advertising for both as the election gets closer,” he said.



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