Over the years, California has collected enough taxes to fully fund education, fix our water issues, and repair our roads — but has chosen to redirect the funds for other priorities. According to the Governor, this year California is collecting more taxes than expenditures, with billions leftover in reserves.
Yet, California, the 5th largest economy in the world, is 36th in the nation in educational attainment, 39th in school quality, 13th in school safety and has the lowest percentage of high school diploma holders in the nation, according to WalletHub’s analyses. Even worse, there have been 19 school shootings in California since 1990 and many other types of assaults on teachers and students.
This is in part due to easy access to weapons and the elimination of mental and social health intervention programs in our schools, such as counseling and nursing for students with psychological challenges, and training in social skills, vocational skills, and courses on civil and moral values that provide students alternatives to negative engagements.
We ask ourselves, “If I only saw the signs…..” Years ago, we had trained professionals on campus who could help with these issues and parents who had access to quality health care that would help them address mental illness. Today, many of these intervention measures have been cut out of the budget.
Equally frustrating, Californians pay the highest sales and income taxes in the nation, and the 2nd highest gas tax in the nation. Yet upwards of 16 percent of California’s college students are from foreign countries, not because they are more qualified but because they pay more in tuition. This has contributed to the issuance of 144,000 work visas to foreign workers, who take American jobs.
Californians are taxed for a lot of worthy things but at some point we have to set limits and priorities. If we consolidate our resources and require all programs to meet performance measures and mandate effectiveness and eliminate redundancy and fraud — we can prioritize funding for education, employment, and affordable housing — so that people can own a home in a safe community, obtain high quality education and training for their children and take care of their families.
As you ponder what and who to vote for, consider that “Voting is like hiring doctors; you want to make sure they’ll come with some operating experience and that you’ll get what you paid for when they’re done.”
Jerome E. Horton is the Third District Member of the California State Board of Equalization, representing more than 9.5 million residents in Los Angeles, a portion of San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. The five-member California State Board of Equalization is a publicly elected tax board that serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes.