Oil tax proposed to fund higher education
October 12, 2009 3:26 PM
The majority leader for the California State Assembly kicked off his tour of eight California State University schools Oct. 12 to promote a bill that could solve California's public higher education budget crisis.
Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, kicked off his "Fair Share for Fair Tuition" tour at Cal State East Bay in support of his bill, AB 656, which would increase tax oil companies 10 percent for oil and gas extraction.
"The oil doesn't belong to the oil companies, it belongs to the people of the state - and if you're going to take it, you're going to pay," Torrico told the crowd, which consisted of about 200 people, in front of the university's administration building, Warren Hall.
The bill would create the California Higher Education Fund in which 60 percent of the money garnered from the tax would be given to the California State University system. Thirty percent will be given to the University of California system and 10 percent to California Community Colleges.
Torrico first introduced the bill to the Assembly in February 2009. The bill has passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee and will be going through the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee in January 2010.
As a former student at the UC Hastings College of Law, Torrico highlighted the need for concrete action to fund California's higher education schools. His goal over the next 100 days will be to get 100,000 supporters to present to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"Everyone says education is the top priority, but no one meets it with action, even in Sacramento," Torrico said.
In Texas, the second highest producer of oil in the United States, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems both benefit from money made through oil. In Alaska, where most of the country's oil is produced, there is a 25 percent tax on oil and natural gas severance that goes to the state.
Ben Helms, an engineering and Spanish student at SF State, had heard of the taxes in Alaska. Comparing the situation there with the one in California, Helms believes that the tax isn't currently in place in the state because of greed.
"It's a great idea for funding, but someone won't make 10 percent of what they did last year, so it hasn't been approved," Helms said.
Kelsey Painter, junior, who had never heard of the bill, agreed with him.
"It's not realistic - it just sounds too good to be true but I don't think it will pass," Painter said.
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