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Tax On Wealthy Would Fund Tuition For California College Students

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Paying for college could soon become a thing of the past.

A bill coming before the California Assembly would tax people making more than $1 million a year to fund tuition-free college across the state.

Opponents of the bill say that would drive the wealthy out of California.

The bill isn't getting any opposition from students at Sacramento City College. They say tuition-free college would keep them out of debt.

"I think it helps motivate kids to stay in school," said Megan Klisiewicz.

She pays her own way at Sac City College and works during the summer to save up for each semester so she can stay on track with her courses.

"I'm planning to go be a vet or go into medicine, but I need to get through these first four years without going into debt," said Klisiewicz.

It's a challenge to stay out of debt for many college students in California, and Stockton Assemblywoman Susan Eggman knows it all too well. She's proposing a bill that would place a one percent tax on people in California who earn more than $1 million annually. That revenue would help fund tuition-free college across the state.

"The more educated workforce we have, the more businesses want to come here, so I see this as an investment," Eggman said.

She says it's time to close the skill gap in California and invest in the new generation before more of the middle-class leaves the state. Under the proposed bill, community colleges, the State University system, and the UC system would no longer charge tuition for in-state students.

"With the squeeze middle-class families are feeling, I think it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it," Eggman said.

"A tax increase is absolutely not the answer. This proposal would hurt the very students it's aiming to help," argued Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

Kiley opposes the bill and says it would drive the wealthy out of California and slash the number of jobs for students about to graduate from college. The solution, he says, is to put a freeze on college tuition rates instead of proposing a tax that could harm the state's economy.

"It would give job creators and business people one more reason not to come to California," said Kiley.

The bill needs voter approval and a two-thirds vote from the legislature to pass. If the bill passes, it will go into effect sometime in 2020.

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