At the UC Regents meetings scattered around the state at four UC campuses, some students demanded that Regents sign a ReFund Higher Education pledge. Promoting the pledge are public employee unions using the student unrest to push their agenda.

Point 5 on The ReFund California Pledge reads: “Reversing tuition increases, layoffs, and cuts to public education and essential services – ensuring good jobs that provide healthcare and a dignified retirement.”

So the pledge is not simply about reversing tuition increases but also about protecting public sector jobs in education and other services, as well as the healthcare and retirement benefits of public employees.

I can understand and sympathize with the students’ frustrations given that tuition tripled over a decade. Higher education in California was never “free” despite what some education advocates say. The “free” education was a cost borne by the taxpayers. Still, the dramatic rise in tuition understandably provides a shock to the students and their families. However, I’m less sympathetic to the unions using the student’s concerns to promote their agenda.

One item on the ReFund Pledge is: “Closing Proposition 13’s corporate property tax loophole.”

Exactly what the pledge means by that is not spelled out – but given past union demands it appears that the split roll business property tax increase is once again being hoisted up the flagpole looking for a salute.

A split roll would tax business property differently than residential property. All business property would be hit by the property tax increase. The words,  “corporate tax loopholes” are intended to hit a nerve. If the promoters of this pledge used factual language —   “raising taxes on business of all kinds including small business” they would not get the response they seek.

A split roll property tax would hit all business and further damage businesses’ attempt to rise from the muck of the recession. Ironically, raising property taxes on business property would likely slow the recovery.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a UC Regent, seems to understand this. He refused to sign the pledge, which is consistent with his position of pushing a jobs agenda for California. More taxes on business would translate into fewer jobs.

The goal of California policymakers should be to help the economy recover and allow increased business to produce the revenue needed to keep tuition down and fund other services.

Hopefully, the students will understand this lesson and not blindly sign on to a plan that would continue the economic woes of the state.