California Lawmaker Wants Tax to Fund Tuition-free College - Higher Education
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California Lawmaker Wants Tax to Fund Tuition-free College

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by Sophia Bollag, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some California Democrats want to make college tuition free for in-state students by taxing very wealthy residents.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman said Monday she’s introducing a bill to create a 1 percent tax on Californians earning more than $1 million per year. The Stockton Democrat says the tax would provide an estimated $2.2 billion each year – enough revenue to make public colleges tuition free for residents.

“I see this as an investment in California’s overall future,” she said, adding that the measure will help middle-class families send their kids to college.

The bill, AB1356, comes on the heels of a separate proposal by other Assembly Democrats to make college more affordable. That plan, which was introduced last week, aims to make college debt-free for students by helping cover non-tuition related expenses and expanding aid for community college students. Eggman said she thinks her bill and that proposal will complement each other.

The bill requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature because it would create a new tax. It would also be put on the ballot so voters can weigh in, Eggman said.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said while he doesn’t think college should be “excessively expensive,” he doesn’t support making college tuition free because he believes students should make a contribution toward their education costs.

The new tax would “give California citizens who have done well one more reason to move out of California,” he said.

Eggman said she doesn’t believe the new tax would drive wealthy people out of the state.

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The wealthiest 1.5 percent of Californians generates roughly half of the state’s income tax revenue. Voters approved Proposition 55 in November to continue taxing that group at a higher rate until 2030 to provide education and health care funding.

In 2004, California voters approved a 1 percent tax on people earning more than $1 million per year to fund mental health programs.

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