As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Asm. Torrico Goes After The Oil Severance Tax - Again

It was hard to follow what was in and out of the budget in those final hours, but as it turned out, the oil severance tax, which at some point was part of the negotiations, ended up out of it. So we remain the only oil-producing state in the country to not charge corporations for taking our natural resources out of the ground. Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico is trying to change that by introducing a bill that would tax oil companies and use the proceeds to fund higher education. This was first reported on John Myers' Twitter feed, but now California Chronicle has a full report.

With California spending almost as much incarcerating inmates in prisons as it does educating students in higher education, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico introduced legislation today to expand funding for community colleges, the California State University and University of California.

"California is on the wrong track heading in the wrong direction," Majority Leader Torrico said. "Our prisons are overflowing and yet we are turning away students at our universities. The Master Plan for Higher Education is becoming a distant memory. This is not a sustainable path for California. We must invest more in higher education. It is a solid down payment on our economic future."

The recently passed state budget contained a 10 percent across the board cut for the UC and CSU systems and reductions for community colleges.

The increased funding from the bill, AB 656, would be derived from a severance tax on oil extracted within California. California, the third-largest oil producing state in the country, is the only state where oil is extracted without a tax.

"My bill will bring California in line with more than 20 other oil-extracting states," Torrico said. "When other states are charging over 12 percent from multi-billion dollar oil companies, we should be doing more to receive funds for our natural resources."

While I'd rather put the money into the General Fund rather than a specific sector, I can't imagine a more rational and simple idea. Nevertheless, I'm sure the Yacht Party will try to block it, as they did successfully last year. That can be a useful vote for the future ("Which side are you on, students or the oil companies"), but it does nothing to move us forward. Only by ending the conservative veto can common-sense solutions like this help California progress.

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