It’s not ‘free’ if you’re taking money from some people and giving it to others. That’s called redistribution.

Chuck Collins writes at the Sacramento Bee:

Here is one way to offer free college in California: Restore the state estate tax

Estuardo Mazariegos graduated this spring from Cal State Dominquez Hills, but with $18,000 in debt after a dozen years struggling to juggle work and paying for college.

Contrast his experience with a previous generation of Californians. Between 1968 and 1975, Dariel Garner attended both undergraduate and graduate school at UC Berkeley for free. He became an entrepreneur and within several decades had amassed a fortune of more than $100 million.

How was that free education possible? One reason: California used to tax the estates of its wealthy residents.

But in 2001, Congress reformed the federal estate tax — paid exclusively by multi-millionaires and billionaires — and cut states out of a “piggy back” arrangement that had existed since the 1920s. Prior to 2001, California’s share of federal estate tax revenue was almost a $1 billion a year.

Other states moved to retain their own estate taxes, including Washington, which dedicated revenue to a trust fund for K-12 and higher education. Oregon, Hawaii, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts and 13 other states also took action.

But not California.

By failing to restore its estate tax, California lost an estimated $18 billion in potential revenue between 2003 and 2016, according to a new report I helped research for the Institute for Policy Studies. Over this same period, average in-state tuition and fees for California public colleges and universities went up nearly 70 percent, adjusted for inflation.