California after Proposition 13 often becomes a topic when Utah's tax initiatives are discussed. But a California higher education official believes such comparisons fall into the apples-and-oranges category - they just aren't alike.
"It is not a good comparison because it is a different situation, different taxes," said William B. Baker, vice president for budget and university relations of the University of California system of higher education.Baker was in Utah Wednesday, acting as a budget consultant to the University of Utah. He said he did not come to speak about the tax-limitation measures, but did so after hearing about what they could do to Utah's system of higher education.
California's Proposition 13, enacted in 1978, affected only property taxes so it directly hit local services, including local school districts, but only indirectly affected higher education, he said.
Two of the three initiatives on the ballot in Utah this year would limit property tax rates plus would also lower sales, gasoline, cigarette and state income taxes.
Baker said California's Proposition 13 was enacted after soaring property values caused an artificial rise in property tax rates. He said it essentially created a one-time benefit for property owners because individuals who have purchased homes after the rollback have not benefited.
"You have neighbors, living side by side, in identical tract houses where one pays $800 in property taxes and the other pays $3,000. The inequities from Proposition 13 are becoming critical," he said.
Other California differences include a $5-7 billion state surplus when Proposition 13 passed and a robust economy, he said.
It was the huge surplus that allowed the California state government to bail out financially strapped local governments, Baker said. However, once the surplus ran out, higher education was then affected, having to compete with local governments for state dollars, he said.
After several years of severe budget cuts in the early 1980s, U.C. officials persuaded the governor and legislators that funding for higher education was vital for maintaining the trained work force and quality of life, the university official said.
He said those rosy funding years continued until this year when the state's $2 billion higher education budget was cut $64 million. If that money isn't restored, California will have to bar admittance to 3,000 to 4,000 students in fall 1989. The U.C. system enrollment is 157,000.
The state Board of Regents has said Utah will have to turn away 10,000 students if the initiatives pass. Utah's nine colleges and universities have 75,000 students.
Baker said the type of cutbacks that would be forced by passage of the Utah tax initiatives spell out a "formula for disaster."
"If enacted (tax initiatives), I think the state of Utah is going to end the lifestyle of this state for future generations. I really believe that. What kind of society do you want to live in, an educated society or an uneducated society?" he asked.