Opinion: California dreaming: Lower taxes -- but don’t try to get your kid into a UC

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Californians got good news this week: Their taxes are being cut.

As The Times reported:

Starting Friday, the statewide sales tax rate drops by one percentage point -- a penny on the dollar -- and the annual vehicle license charge that drivers pay tumbles by 43%.


Californians got bad news this week: The University of California is accepting fewer Californians.

As The Times reported:

The University of California’s effort to recruit more out-of-state students for the extra tuition they pay is having a strong impact on the incoming freshman class, with nonresidents making up 12.3% of the new class, up from 8% in the school year just ended, according to figures released Thursday.

So there you have it. Republicans refuse to raise taxes -- or even keep them at the levels they’ve been -- so Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrats put together a painful budget of cuts, including a 23% funding reduction for higher education.

Which means that many of our kids will get to experience the UCs the way most of us experience Rodeo Drive -- as window-shoppers:

‘Wow, Dad, UC Berkeley looks great. Can I go?’

‘No, son, sorry, that’s mostly for kids from New York or Hong Kong who can afford it. But you can still go to UC Merced!’

And what’s the real-world math on those tax savings? As The Times story said:

A new car buyer who scoops up a $25,000 ride this weekend, for instance, will pay $250 less in sales tax. And the smaller yearly vehicle fee -- dropping from 1.15% of a car’s value to 0.65% -- on the new car will save the owner $125.


Which is nice. But will it really be worth it to you when it also means that your son with the excellent SATs and the 4.5 GPA and the hours of community service will be shut out of the state’s most prestigious public universities?

It won’t be that bad, you say? Read on:

The biggest increases in out-of-state and international students will be concentrated at the three UC campuses that are the most selective, and perhaps most widely known outside California. UC Berkeley will have the largest proportion of such students, nearly 30% of the fall freshman class, up from 23% last fall. UC San Diego and UCLA are next, with about 18% each, also up from last year.

So about one-third of the students at Berkeley will be from out of state. Must be a good school. Too bad many California kids can’t go there.

And what do Republicans say?

On average, a family of four will save more than $1,000 a year when income tax hikes that expired in January are factored in, according to Republican lawmakers. And who is cheering? ‘Within a year’s time, I know I’ll feel the impact on my pocketbook,’ said Mike Tanner, a 56-year-old retired phone company technician from South Pasadena.

Yep, a phone company technician who is retired at 56. Good for him. He’s got his. Who cares if your kid suffers?

I know, I know, the rich pay all the taxes; they deserve a break. Like the one Republicans refused to end for people who buy yachts that they dock in Mexico for months to avoid the sales tax.

You know what the rich do about taxes? There’s a guy I know who bought his Ferrari in Arizona, to avoid the California sales tax, and registered it out of state, to avoid the state license fee. He lives in California -- he just doesn’t like paying for the privilege.

Of course, he can also afford to send his children to any college they want.

For the rest of us, there’s always the Cal States, I guess.

I mean, we didn’t cut their budgets too, did we?



California’s sales and vehicle taxes head down


Gov. Jerry Brown signs ‘honest but painful’ budget

Cal State system: It’s time to get back to teaching

Cuts to higher education: The Master Plan turncoats

Second round of tuition hikes likely at UC and Cal State systems

--Paul Whitefield

UCLA is one of the UC campuses with a large percentage of out-of-state students. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times