Proposition 21 aims to establish a vehicle license surcharge to help fund state parks and wildlife programs. Surcharged vehicles will have free admission to all state parks.
I can hear the moaning already: Times are tight! No more taxes!
This is true. With the California Employment Development Department estimating unemployment around 12 percent, it seems downright stupid to increase vehicle license fees for all. And with times as dire as they are, why should we care about our state parks?
In an effort to make ends meet, our politicians have threatened to shut down some or all of our state parks time and time again.
Proposition 21 will create a trust fund within the state treasury and money available will be used strictly for operation and maintenance of park facilities, wildlife and natural resource conservation, outreach and public education. Proposition 21 forbids our politicians from using money in the trust fund for any other projects.
To ensure that the money collected is used as intended, The State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund will be subject to an annual audit by an oversight committee, and its report shall be made available to the public.
California—with all its problems—is a beautiful state. It’s easy for us to take our state for granted. I have family and friends overseas, and they all, without fail, marvel at the beautiful vistas and amount of open space that we are blessed with in California. Our state parks cover over 1.5 million acres. We have over 13,000 individual campsites.
As a mountain biker and occasional surfer and body boarder, I have greatly enjoyed California’s state parks. Some of my fondest memories are of camping trips up and down California and of road trips with friends in search of new single-track trails to ride. I am not alone. According to the state park systems 2008-2009 statistical report, our state parks received over 72 million visitors between day users and campers in the fiscal year 2008-2009.
This issue goes beyond our recreational needs. Our state parks also support local economies and generate tax revenues. In fact, many local chambers of commerce are in favor of proposition 21.
Although most of our state parks are still open to some degree, their hours of operation have been curtailed, maintenance has been reduced and their overall quality has deteriorated. Bathrooms and showers are not as clean as they could be. Trails are not well maintained.
Many of the arguments against proposition 21 center around Sacramento’s inefficient and dishonest use of state funds, as well as the usual uproar whenever any kind of tax is proposed.
Like many people, I don’t enjoy paying taxes. However, proposition 21 will keep our state parks open and in better shape. It will help preserve our state parks for future generations and it will support local economies. All for a whopping $18 annual fee.