Should the wealthy pay an estate tax to make California college tuition free for all?
To succeed, a signature-gathering process typically needs to be well-funded. Such was the case with one of the more successful drives in recent years, Proposition 64, which led to the legalization of recreational marijuana in California.
The backers of the free college initiative are fighting more of an uphill battle. They don’t have the financial backing of an industry such as cannabis.
“Largely we are student groups and community groups, and we have some labor unions that are supporting this too,” said Angad Bhalla, a coordinator for the College For All Campaign. “Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of billionaires behind us because we are taxing them.”
In fact, they are asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution to provide financial aid to cover tuition and some living expenses for all in-state undergraduate students at University of California and California State University campuses and community colleges. The financial aid would be covered by a tax on estate property in California valued at $3.5 million or more transferred upon death. It’s supporters claim only the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Californians would be taxed under the law, raising more than 3 billion dollars a year.
In December, proponents began collecting signatures for “The College for All Act of 2018.” They need signatures from 585,407 registered voters, which is 8 percent of all votes cast for governor in the 2014. The petitions must be submitted by June 13 to qualify for the November ballot, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
“It’s just logistically extremely hard to do a petition campaign like this without millions of dollars, which is why the petitions that do get on the ballot have big financial backing,” said Bhalla. “Even though this is supposed to be unique and exciting with citizens putting things on the ballot – it’s really just like billionaires putting things on the ballot. Big money has a lot of say.”
Anyone interested in affixing their name to the College For All petition can go to the College For All website to request a petition be mailed, or they can email campaign coordinator Andre Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org, said Bhalla.
Full Story in The North Hollywood Patch