Among the many insights offered about the choice of Janet Napolitano as the new president of the University of California is the suggestion that she would be a person who could help increase revenue for the university system. The Los Angeles Times news report on the selection of Napolitano stated that she “may be able to raise more money and play a more influential role in Sacramento and Washington.”
As a high profile individual she can work the corridors of power to seek more money from the legislature as well as increase donations and grants to the schools. She might also be willing – as a former politician – to take the heat of a political campaign that sought more taxes.
On the latter issue of taxes, a quick look at her record as Governor of Arizona is in order.
Taxpayers shouldn’t be surprised that the former governor would not be adverse to higher taxes. In a piece on the Arizona Public Radio KNAU website, a recap of Napolitano’s position on taxes begins with the following: “Outgoing Governor Janet Napolitano said Monday if it were up to her, people living here would be paying more taxes than they do now.”
One of the items mentioned on Napolitano’s resume related to education was her fight to secure all-day kindergarten in Arizona. To achieve that she had to agree to a 10% across the board individual income tax cut to bring the legislature along. She got what she wanted but in retrospect said the tax cut was not the wisest public policy.
Although it should be noted, as any astute politician would, she took credit for the tax cut in her re-election campaign.
As governor, Napolitano also vetoed an effort to reduce a special property tax dedicated to equalizing education funding between poorer and wealthier school districts.
Like former University of California presidents, Napolitano undoubtedly is expected to attempt to secure more money from the legislature. As a former governor, she probably would not shy away from an initiative fight over new taxes for higher education.
There have been a number of initiatives introduced over the last few years that would direct tax revenue to higher ed, although they never had high-powered support behind them and they went nowhere. Napolitano could supply some recognition for such a cause if she so chooses.
It is not unprecedented that a governor from another of the 49 states moves to California for an education position. Former Colorado governor Roy Romer took on the job as Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2000 to 2007.
His record on the job was mixed with a major criticism that he expanded the bureaucracy at a time when teachers were let go and the school population was declining. According to a Los Angeles Daily News report, “LAUSD’s bureaucratic expansion accelerated under former Superintendent Roy Romer in 2001 as the 928,000-square-foot Beaudry Building was purchased and filled despite enrollment that was already beginning to stall. During Romer’s tenure, nonschool-based employees increased by 18 percent, district records show.”
Romer defended the increase in the bureaucracy to meet community demands, manage a school building program and have the personal needed to track student performance.
Comparing one former governor’s record with what another former governor might do in a like position is not fair. However, noting the record of former politicians to embrace taxes and increase bureaucracies is something to consider.