Oil tax, AB 656, may help college budget crisis


Kayla Sallee

Majority Leader Torrico’s Higher Education Bill would boost funding to the UC system.

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont) introduced AB 656 earlier this year.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with both the author’s office and the sponsor, the California Faculty Association, and we are working together to ensure that the bill distributes money in an equitable manner among higher education segments,” said Scott Lay, President and Chief Executive Officer Orange Coast College.

California is the only major oil-producing state in the nation without an oil severance tax.

Community Colleges are taking the largest per-student cut and stand to lose a disproportionate share of students through this budget crisis.

The bill as currently drafted would provide 10 percent of the funding to community colleges, and community colleges would get one member of an oversight board compared to four from UC and CSU.

“I think it’s about time California catches up with the rest of the nation and tax oil that comes out of the ground,” Mike Reed, journalism instructor.

The bill passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee in July and is now in the Revenue and Taxation Committee.

The bill would direct about $1 billion to higher education through a 9.9 percent tax on oil removed from California’s land and water.

Now Majority Leader Torrico is issuing a Call to Action to gather 100,000 supporters for AB 656 in 100 days.

Mr. Torrico will be leading solidarity rallies and programs at several university campuses in October in support of AB 656.

The state of Texas has a long history of using oil revenue to augment funding for its universities.

Texas generates in part about $400 million each year for higher education through mineral and oil rights revenue, which go into a permanent university fund.

Students attending University of California campuses around the state, many for the first day of class, are experiencing walkouts, rallies, teach-ins and labor strikes caused by rising student fees, unpaid employee furloughs, layoffs, course cutbacks and collective bargaining disputes.

“As I will be applying to the UC system for graduate school this winter, I will be happy to pay more taxes, we need all the money we can get,” said Amitis Oskoui, 23, journalism.

Students and faculty around the state are standing up and speaking out against the budget cuts and rapidly rising student fee increases threatening California’s higher education system.

For decades, the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges have provided top-notch higher education systems that are the envy of the world.

But continuous budget cuts, rapidly rising student fees and now furloughs are dragging down our institutions of higher learning.

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