Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sacto Bee's Editorial on the Cal Chamber of Commerce

The Sacramento Bee

Editorial: Cal Chamber goes on an ad attack

Published Thursday, Apr. 08, 2010

Over the last year, UC President Mark Yudof and other higher education leaders have been crisscrossing the state, making the case for Californians to reinvest in their public universities and community colleges.

Speaking to the UCLA Daily Bruin in October, Yudof noted that extra tax revenue may be needed. "I wish they'd pay a little bit more in taxes and support us, but we've been unwilling to do that," he said.

Why are taxpayers reluctant? One reason is the rhetoric and aggressive campaign tactics of anti-tax groups, who relentlessly claim that new taxes and fees - whether on oil extraction, alcohol sales or other vices - are disastrous to the state economy.

One of these groups is the California Chamber of Commerce, which, as it turns out, has a large board of directors that includes Yudof, CSU Chancellor Charlie Reed and Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott.

This week, the Cal Chamber fired off its latest cannonball of dishonesty, by claiming that the state's current economic troubles have something to do with Jerry Brown's past support for tax increases.

"California's lost 1 million jobs," says a female narrator in an attack ad financed by the Cal Chamber. "We're $200 billion in debt. And Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes."

We have no problems with the chamber taking shots at Jerry Brown. He has an extensive track record, and all of it is fair game for groups that want California to be more business friendly.

Yet on the issue of taxes, the chamber's television ad is both misleading and hypocritical. While Brown supported tax increases as governor, so did Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson (another chamber board member) during their terms in office.

The ad also hits Brown for initially opposing Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that limited property taxes. Apparently the chamber has forgotten its own opposition to Proposition 13, with its president at the time calling the initiative "a can of worms, horribly flawed, poorly
written and researched."

Soon after the chamber launched this week's hit on Brown, we contacted Yudof to see if he had reviewed the advertisement beforehand or supported its message.

"President Yudof was not aware of this ad and did not participate in its approval," Yudof's office said in a statement. "As a leader of a public university, he is nonpartisan. He is looking into the circumstances surrounding the advertisement."

We hope he does.

But he shouldn't stop there. Yudof, Reed and Scott need to send a clear message to the chamber's executive team that its attack ads are unacceptable. They stamp out debate on how California can rebuild itself, and undermine the credibility of higher education leaders who
are trying to spark this debate.

No comments: