Monday, October 18, 2010

Funding Parks

Raising taxes is not the way to fund parks, though this article from the Sacramento Bee suggests it is.

Our post from yesterday about the federal government creating more parks than it can take care of, may also be applicable at the local level.

The heritage most Californians would probably prefer to have have had left to them would be protection from flooding and the subsequent adequate water storage for the state through the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height (tripling its storage) and the construction of the Auburn Dam, posted on here.

An excerpt from the Bee’s story.

“They were left to the people of California, gifts of natural beauty and magnificence to be passed through the generations.

“For California's 278 state parks, that heritage is becoming an iffy proposition.

“Amid a sagging economy and chronic state budget deficit, California's parks – like other state park systems across the nation – are at a critical financial crossroads.

“Years of budget cuts have produced a $1 billion backlog of crumbling buildings and eroding trails, according to a five-month examination by McClatchy newspapers in California. The vacancy rate among California park rangers stands at 30 percent. Reported crimes in state parks tripled over the past decade as the state added more parks – but not park rangers – a data analysis shows.

"We're on the wrong end of a 30-year downward trend," said California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman.

"The cumulative effect is leaving a state park system that is seriously degraded and, in some places, buildings on the verge of collapse."

“Nationwide, California's parks system is considered by experts to be among the most threatened. Other states – including Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey and New York – also are struggling.

“As a result, from coast to coast, states are looking for new ways to save these public preserves from extinction. Last year, basic park operations cost Californians $235 million.

"These are all places of California's heritage," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the nonprofit California State Parks Foundation. "It would be tragic to lose them and not protect them.

"These are the places that make California California."

“Vehicle fee gains support

“Goldstein and a wide coalition of interests believe they have a solution for California's parks in a November ballot initiative that would add $18 to the annual vehicle license fee.

“While a handful of other states have similar licensing fees, California's Proposition 21 would make the surcharge mandatory – a factor that has contributed to opposition here.

“In exchange for the fee, California motorists would have free day use at all 278 state parks, while nonresidents still would pay entrance fees.

“The proposal – opposed primarily by taxpayer organizations – would generate $500 million annually for state parks and wildlife programs.

“It has garnered wide-ranging support – from business and travel interests, environmentalists, labor, education, public health and faith communities. California State Parks has taken no public position.

"What we're trying to do with Proposition 21 is to find a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem," said Goldstein.

“Opponents, meanwhile, view the measure as more "ballot-box budgeting" that does not hold politicians accountable for setting spending priorities.

"The concern is, first and foremost, an increase in the vehicle license fee on all California drivers," said David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to us."

“Wolfe and others argue that the proposed surcharge is a regressive tax, affecting many people who can ill afford an $18 hike for an amenity they may never use. And, they say, it is money being peeled off vehicle registration that does not directly relate to transportation.”