Many don’t believe this but sports and politics go hand in hand, which is great for me because I have a short history of being political. Prior to becoming a full-time sports guy, I hosted and produced political talk shows, attended the 2008 RNC, conversed with fellow conservative talkers on the lawn of the state capital building in Sacramento and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
While my political leanings have far less-bearing on my work in the world of sports, from time to time they merge together, most recently with the passage last week of California’s Proposition 30, the temporary tax-hike to fund education and prevent further cuts from K-12 and State University systems. It was against every fiber in my being as a Republican-registered conservative to vote for this measure; I’m owning up to it and letting you know; I did.
As you catch your breath, let me explain. For just under two years I have worked on campus at CSU Bakersfield. I’ve watched every quarter as Governor Jerry Brown has authorized tuition hike after tuition hike while simultaneously slashing the budgets of the CSU system. Here in CSUB Athletics we faced that problem two-fold, for every tuition hike, we had to pay more to the university for our student-athlete scholarships; putting us in a deeper hole with every increase. This eventually leads to fewer scholarship offerings and when competing with the big boys, a decreased chance of winning.
It also meant fewer staff members, more work for those that were left and this looming black cloud known as the California budget that prevented us from making many moves necessary to truly advance our program and in turn, the university itself.
I stood by helpless as the Governor used the CSU and UC systems as a reservoir he was bleeding dry to fund other areas of state-budget shortfalls. The Orange County Register recently reported that California spends over $50 billion a year on its prison system, about twice what it spends from the general fund for the University of California and the California State University systems combined. They also pointed out that in the mid-1990s, California was spending more than twice as much on its universities as its prisons.
What went wrong? A little bit of everything, but with another $280 million ‘trigger-cut’ looming if Prop 30 failed, a 1/4 of a cent tax increase to help avoid that cut and create a special fund for education and in turn temporarily stopping the blood-letting going on in the CSU system, it seemed like a decent option. While we in CSUB Athletics have taken great measures to increase corporate sponsorship dollars and annual giving by supporters, we still need the help of the state to keep tuition costs down so we can fully-fund our scholarship programs to competitive levels allowed by the NCAA. We couldn’t keep playing this “wait-and-see” game anymore.
Now with Prop 30 in the books, I wait to see if the accountability promised will indeed help the state reverse the crooked numbers and keep the CSU system as one of the most affordable and useful education systems in the nation.
Am I optimistic? I wouldn’t exactly call it that; but it’s a start. I also realize I live in California, where eventually my taxes are going to be increased for social programs I have no vested interest in, environmental causes like saving the spotted horned toad or some sort of ‘special fee’ to offset high-speed rail research. As far as Prop 30 is concerned, I feel I might as well get my money’s worth.
One-quarter of a cent. It will add up when it comes to major purchases and affect those who make over $250,000 annually, I understand that. But, if I am actually going to see the return on this investment by keeping tuition down, making our teams more competitive in the grand scheme of NCAA Athletics while helping increase opportunities for student-athletes as well, I’d say that’s worth every penny.
COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University Bakersfield.