ASI Senate to decide on initiative to tax oil companies for funding

A professor at Cypress College addressed the Associated Students Inc. Senate for support for an initiative to tax oil companies for education.

The initiative would place a 15 percent tax on oil that would go straight to the education system.

Peter Mathews, professor of political science at Cypress College, told ASI of a debate about the initiative on Sept. 9 at Cypress College.

Mathews took part in the debate and was the first one to speak.

He argued that oil companies don’t own oil, and that oil intrinsically belongs to the common people. He also said that, in California, raising gas prices by less than a penny per gallon could potentially raise a lot of money that could then be transferred to higher education tuition costs.

“Would you pay a cent more in gas for tuition-free education?” Mathews asked, addressing the audience. “I think most of us would.”

Oil-industry representative Anita Mangel counteracted Mathews’s proposal, saying that, while his intentions were admirable, his methods were questionable and shortsighted.

“[The initiative] is well-intended,” Mangel said. “But it’s not the answer. Higher taxes on anybody are not the answer.”

Mangel argued that as many as 10,000 people could be left unemployed if Mathews’ resolve was successful. This estimate included people indirectly linked to oil distribution as well as those directly connected to it.

“Lower production means lower jobs, not only in the oil fields, but the companies that service them,” Mangel said.

Mangel’s side of the debate also pointed out flaws in the initiative, such as the fact that if oil is brought in from outside of the state, the price of gas will increase lawfully, despite the embedded text that bars oil companies from passing on their fees in the form of higher gas prices.

She also attacked Mathews’ claim that the money gained from the initiative would go to a separate fund specifically reserved for higher education.

While Mathews tried to win over students by implying a direct connection between the new tax dollars and tuition rates, Mangel pointed out that the initiative does not specify how the money would be spent within the general realm of education.

“If we don’t close up those loopholes in the initiative, you might not get that benefit you think you’re going to get,” Mangel said.

Ultimately, Mangel did not believe that Mathews’ initiative would solve the original problem, despite its apparently noble intentions.

“The problem is not the taxes,” she said. “The problem is that the legislature has failed dismally.”

Mathews is searching for CSU-wide support for his initiative. The ASI Senate has not drafted any resolutions in support or opposition of the initiative.

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