Say what you will about Californians, but when it comes to their desires and demands about government services, they are consistently inconsistent.
A newly released statewide poll shows that while large majorities of residents are angry... even downright depressed... about the funding of public colleges and universities, most are unwilling to pay any additional taxes to solve the problem.
The new survey from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds a whopping 74% of respondents, across all political persuasions, believe that not enough is now being spent on higher education. And 62% say that after several years of deep cuts in higher ed -- capped off by a $1.5 billion cut this past year -- California's once praised colleges and universities are headed in the wrong direction.
But what to do? Here's how the PPIC puts it:
Despite Californians' worries about the fiscal situation in higher education, 52 percent of residents are unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding, while 45 percent would do so. Likely voters are divided (49% yes, 49% no). Most Democrats (63%) would pay higher taxes, while most independents (55%) and Republicans (71%) would not.
This isn't the first time that a poll's found voters demanding more spending without paying more in taxes. Quite the contrary: that contradiction, even when additional tax dollars are generally seen as necessary, has appeared in major polls for several years running.
But what's especially puzzling about this survey is how many of those polled say the community college, CSU, and UC systems are a "high" or "very high" priority -- 70% -- but how few would pay additional dollars to maintain even current funding.
So how should state lawmakers maintain current funding or even increase it to the levels of a few years ago?
Increase student fees? 69% say no.
Admit more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition? 52% say yes... unless it means fewer slots for in-state kids, in which case only 20% say yes.
Only finding money for higher ed construction projects through selling bonds (borrowing) finds majority support, with 58% of those polled approving.
Critics of additional taxes will no doubt say that there are other places in the state budget to save money and redirect it to higher education; even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pretty much solidified that notion in his 2010 trial balloon idea to link higher ed and prison spending.
The poll also seems to suggest a slight skepticism from the public about how colleges and universities are spending their existing dollars. PPIC finds a 10% drop in approval for CSU and 8% for UC since the question was last asked in 2007. And 65% of those polled express concern about recent tuition hikes enacted in response to state budget cuts, which today's news is only likely to exacerbate.