California Federation of Teachers Takes on Billionaires; Aims to Reset Inequity in California

Pile of United States one hundred dollar ($100) bills with selective focus and blurred background

With little new revenue in the budget deal reached between Governor Newsom and the Legislature yesterday, today the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) released a new research brief, “Resetting Inequity in California,” that argues California needs progressive, substantial, and equitable new sources of revenue in place of potential school cuts that may make it all but impossible to safely reopen schools in the fall.

“California’s CEO’s and billionaires continue to amass staggering amounts of wealth as everyday Californians suffer through the pandemic and its economic fallout. This week’s budget agreement doesn’t ask for a penny more from the ultra-rich, yet asks our schools and students to do the miraculous — get back to ‘normal’ without the funding we need to keep students and school staff safe,” said CFT President Jeff Freitas. “Instead of accepting potential cuts that might devastate our schools and our communities, shouldn’t we instead ask those who are profiting the most during the COVID-19 pandemic to invest in our state’s recovery?” 

The report outlines criteria legislators should use to evaluate revenue options and identifies several that meet CFT’s threshold of progressive, substantial, and equitable revenues. The paper also clearly calls state leaders to action to ensure an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath, saying, “We need Governor Newsom and our legislators to include the mega-profits and accumulated wealth in any budget plan to help our state weather this storm and repair decades of financial damage to our school system. Californians deserve a budget that uses the untapped resources of those who can afford to share their pandemic profits.” 

The working paper catalogues the growing wealth of the billionaire class in California, the state one in four of the nation’s billionaires call home. While ordinary Californians were sheltering in place and struggling to maintain their livelihoods, billionaires were getting richer by the day and accumulated another $141 billion in wealth from March to May of this year.  

Key Findings:

  • 1 in 4 of the country’s billionaires call California home.
  • School funding has not rebounded since the corporate property tax loophole was created in 1978; CA’s per-student spending on instruction ranked 7th in the nation in 1977 and 41st by 2016.
  • The pandemic has been a boon for billionaires around the world, and as ordinary Californians were sheltering in place and losing employment, California’s billionaires were getting wealthier by the day–obtaining $141 billion from March through May of 2020.
  • A net worth tax of 1% on individuals with net worth over $50 million and an additional 0.5% tax on worth over $1 billion would bring roughly $18.5 billion to the state each year.

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