Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oil Tax for Higher Ed via Initiative?

From KQED Capital Notes 12/14/11 (excerpt):

One thing that's safe to say about John Burton, the veteran legislator who now chairs the California Democratic Party: he doesn't ask for permission before he acts. And so on Tuesday, while Governor Jerry Brown was telling reporters that he hopes to clear the field of other tax initiatives aiming for the November ballot, Burton was filing a tax initiative of his own -- an oil severance tax to help fund higher education…

Burton's proposal is pretty straightforward, and would assess a 12.5% tax per barrel of oil, with exceptions made for low-producing oil wells. Most of the money would be earmarked for higher education (including community colleges), with the remainder going back in the state's general fund. The Burton initiative would also establish a new oversight committee for higher education that would have a say in doling out the revenues…

Full article at

The initiative is at

Since Burton is chair of the state Democratic Party, it is at least conceivable he could raise funds to put the initiative on the ballot.

The initiative gives CSU 50% of the revenue and UC and the community colleges each 25%. There are stipulations such as use for nursing programs. There is some language putting a floor on other state higher ed appropriations meant to prevent the state from reducing “regular” appropriations and replacing them with oil tax revenues. Not clear how effective this provision would be.

John Burton’s views on the initiative process (also on an earlier post) from the Daily Show are at: (you may have to watch an ad)

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