Treasurer wants land for financial aid
Treasurer wants land for financial aid
November 4, 2004 11:04 AM
California State Treasurer Phil Angelides is looking for a legislator to back his proposal to use publicly owned real estate to increase funding for the UC, CSU and community college system.
On October 19, Angelides announced his idea to create a California Hope Endowment that would manage the estimated $5 billion in state-owned land assets, including office buildings, warehouses and undeveloped lands. The endowment would run the state’s properties like a company and direct the revenues toward higher education goals through a CalHope Trust, according to the treasurer’s proposal.
Mitchel Benson, the treasurer’s spokesman, said the endowment would include non-environmentally sensitive urban and industrial land and be held to the same land use standards as private developers. Hospitals, prisons, parks and protected environmental lands would not be affected.
The CalHope Trust would decide how the money is spent, but Angelides wants to use the trust to increase the number of students entering and graduating from college. He estimates the endowment could raise $300 million per year to help fund college preparation and outreach programs, advanced placement classes, counseling and financial aid.
By Angelides’ estimates, the trust – once it is up and running – could pay for 19,000 students to attend a CSU campus or cover 385,000 students at a community college.
Although the proposal sounds like a win for both the government and college students, SF State public administration assistant professor Sheldon Gen said linking land management with higher education is “unnatural” and “tenuous.”
“It makes him look good on two fronts,” Gen said. “He’s bringing in more revenues and making the government more efficient, while helping a topic that’s popular with the voters, which is higher education.”
Gen said Texas A&M University and the University of Texas receive money from oil taxes. Although the link between education and oil is also unclear, Texans decided higher education was a priority and the state’s natural resource of oil was a way to help pay for it, Gen said.
But Gen warns that dictating where revenues should be spent could create problems for legislators.
“If there is a mismanagement of state-owned property, then we ought to be fixing that problem independent of how that money is used,” Gen said.
“In a budget crunch time, you can’t tell me that the legislature isn't going to see that the CSU has this money in the form of an endowment [and may see some flexibility in the CSU budget],” Gen said.
While other portions of the state budget, like elementary school funding, are constitutionally protected, higher education is not. Benson said California’s budgetary process is "too precarious and injurious" and a "bold, proactive initiative" is needed to ensure funding for colleges and universities.
"I don't think you can rely on the state budgetary process to protect you from bigger classes and higher fees anymore," Benson said.
Angelides uses the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Fell Street building at the tip of Golden Gate Park as one example of a state-owned location not being used to its full potential. The location has a large parking lot and could be developed to include a multi-story building with retail on the first floor, the DMV on the second and private office space on the third floor.
Benson said the treasurer is currently meeting with California legislators to find a sponsor to draft the proposal into a bill.
Although it received little attention during the final weeks of the presidential election, Angelides’ proposal will likely be a popular one and legislators would have a hard time saying no to it, Gen said.
“Education, in general, is a very appealing thing to the voters,” Gen said. “So any feather you can have in your hat that is for education is great. At the same time, any feather you can have in your cap that increases the efficiency of government, without raising taxes, is also good.”
The proposal could prove helpful or hurtful if Angelides runs for governor in 2006, as many political analysts have suggested. Whether or not it goes into effect, Benson said the goal is to discuss how to get more students into college and graduated.
"Will the ultimate answer be precisely what he's saying?” Benson said. “[Angelides is] not saying that. He's saying it's a good beginning to open the discussion, to open the debate. But what he's tired of is the discussion of how do we cut higher education?"
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