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Measure E Debate on KMJ: What Did Supporters & Opponents Say?
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By Edward Smith
Published 2 months ago on
February 27, 2024

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Supporters and opponents of the sales tax to support construction projects at Fresno State took to the airwaves Tuesday to debate the merits of Measure E.

Tim Orman, general consultant for the Measure E campaign, told the audience about Fresno State’s funding needs and the huge positive impact the estimated $1.5 billion fund would deliver during KMJ’s Broeske & Musson broadcast Tuesday.

On the other side was Brooke Ashjian, a former Fresno Unified School District board member. Ashjian said the responsibility of caring for Fresno State falls on the state’s shoulders — a responsibility that the governor and Legislature have shirked — and that the sales tax will would unfairly burden Fresno County’s poorest residents.

Measure E ‘Not Unprecedented’: Orman

The .25% sales tax would raise $1.5 billion over 25 years, Orman said. Funds would go toward new and renovated academic and athletic facilities and $313 million in deferred maintenance the state has no plan to fund.

Orman said the 23 campuses in the California State University system are the “red-headed stepchild” of education. K-12 education and junior colleges have state-level money guaranteeing them funds. They can also float bonds to fund capital projects. At the other end, the University of California system gets per-student funding twice that of the CSUs.

Each year, CSU campuses compete for limited funding, Orman said.

Orman said that funding Fresno State through a local sales tax measure is not unprecedented. Measure Z pays for the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Measure C pays for local roads, and Measure B pays for county libraries.

There Are Other Ways to Fund Fresno State: Soria, Ashjian

Brooke Ashjian said opponents of Measure E don’t disagree that Fresno State needs better funding. The problem for Ashjian is that Measure E pays for what is the state’s responsibility.

“Nobody is disputing that the state of California is a slumlord,” Ashjian said.

Similarly, nobody from the Measure E campaign reached out to California lawmakers to get projects funded, Ashjian added.

Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria (D-Merced) called into the show saying no one from the Measure E campaign, in the years California had budget surpluses, reached out to her office to get projects funded. She secured $300 million for her community, she said, including funding for Merced College and UC Merced.

Orman said that with the state’s current budget deficit (possibly as big as $73 billion) getting funds will be harder than ever. He added that every year the CSU system asks for more funding.

Also brought into question was the Measure’s oversight committee. The measure creates a seven-person committee to audit and approve funding for different projects. Measure E allows committee members to establish their compensation, up to $81,000 a year. Committee members can also have one staff member who is paid similarly to a full-time county employee.

Orman called objections to the oversight committee a “dog whistle because the money is not guaranteed.”

“It might be a dog whistle, but I’ve never seen a politician turn down money,” Ashjian said.

$1.5 Billion in Taxes Delivers a $5 Billion Impact: Orman

Orman said a study showed Measure E would net the county $5 billion in impact from the $1.5 billion investment. A new nursing program could triple the number of nurses Fresno State graduates, he said.

Ashjian and Soria said there are other ways to secure funding for Fresno State.

“There are ways to ask for funding without putting it on taxpayer’s shoulders,” Soria said.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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