State Parks tax measure closer to ballot

at Marshall Gold Discovery Park

Environmental groups were successful in gathering the required signatures to place a new measure on the November ballot which would add an $18 charge to most DMV registrations in order to keep the state parks open.

If approved by a simple majority of state voters on Nov. 2, the measure would increase annual vehicle registration fees for California motorists by $18 a year, and allow any car with California license plates free admission to the state’s 278 parks, which currently charge fees that range from about $6 to $15 per visit.

Of course, tax groups and the Governator will fight such a measure. But though I am no tax lover, to me this actually sounds like a great deal and a major boost to state park attendance, I would think. Of course, that’s because I know that I would really get my money’s worth.

And you have to love Schwarzenegger’s commitment to no new taxes. We’d react more strongly to that, but first we have to finish adding up all the extra CA taxes we paid last year…

What do you think? Would forcing you to pay for it finally pique your interest in visiting a state park? Or will they have to take this $18 from your cold dead hand?

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

16 thoughts on “State Parks tax measure closer to ballot”

  1. As an insider at Resources Agency I can say that Parks makes money for the state. This is a scam to get more money into the coffers so they take more of the Parks money.


  2. Um, I’m not sure what inside info the dude is referring to, but I actually work for Parks as an analyst and can say as the measure is written right now no money collected by the $18 will go into the coffers of the state outside of Parks. It is true that money would go to the general fund, but only general fund money that is currently allocated to Parks. Basically the $18 will make Parks completely self sufficient from General Fund money and by doing so those funds that currently go to Parks can be allocated to other State agencies.

    In my biased opinion, what’s $18 really? I buy tickets to a concert from Ticketmaster and they charge me a $12 service fee per ticket. I think the benefits to local rural economies far outweigh $18 a year. Plus by just having the option of loading a family into a car and going to the coast or the mountains or Sutter’s fort without worrying about fees would do great things for the youth of the state.


  3. Getting into a state park anywhere free, for $18 a year? Given the number of times my family visits the gorgeous state beaches along the Mendocino and Humboldt coasts over the summer, it sounds like a deal to me.

    But that “no new taxes” stand is just all bluff. User fees like those paid for fishing licenses and camping reservations apparently don’t count as taxes under the Governator’s administration, as nearly all of those have gone up in the last two years. Under Tim Pawlenty, the supposed “new face of the Republican party,” taxes have been flat in Minnesota, but user fees across the board—auto license registration, hunting and fishing licenses, state park entrance fees, construction licenses—have gone up as much as 15 percent. It’s a sneaky backdoor way of getting revenue while looking good to the Taxpayers’ Union.


  4. For only $1 more, we can clean up all the parks. For only $1 more than that, we can fund free raincoats at the parks. And for only another $1 we can buy everyone a pony, and so on…


  5. If there is increased usage of the parks, we will need extra resources to run them & keep them clean/preserved. I am unlcear whether this measure will cover the possible additional costs. It doesn’t seem like the State ever looks into possible growth, though. Is it wrong to plan for it? Or do we just pass another measure when the problem arises?

    Overall, the more people at the parks the better. How can you not love it and want it to be there for yoyr kids’ kids?


  6. Honey Sac – That’s a good point, but this is a ballot initiative, not a legislative one. So it’s the environmental groups that are not thinking of that (or maybe they have, I haven’t been able to track down any proposed text).

    The way I look at it is this is a marginal tax increase that gets each person an actual $18 of extra government service (since the alternative is that nobody can visit the parks). Not something you can say about most other tax increases.


  7. Sundog is right that there is a lot of political bluff with “no new taxes” pledges simply driving more user taxes. Pawlenty is one example. Another is Obama’s no tax increase pledge which was followed shortly thereafter by a cigarette tax increase, as if lower and middle class people do not smoke.

    But from a transparency and accountability perspective, a user tax is the best way to go. Mixing disparate tasks such as car registration and state park upkeep simply leaves the door open for unchecked bureacracy and waste with both. User taxes can be a pain, and are so un-European and uncool, but at least you know what you are getting for dollar.

    My take is that parks should not be closed until all other options for self-sustainabilty have been evaluated (reduced labor costs, volunteer support, etc). But frankly if $10 a car can’t cover the cost of emptying garbage cans and locking the gate at sundown, I am not sure that layering on a thicker layer of bureacracy is the right solution.


  8. Anyone who doesn’t want to spend $18 a year to help save state parks is insane. That’s $1.50 a month people. You pay that when you take money out of a non-bank ATM for chrissakes.


  9. According to the proponents, entrance fees today generate around $50M, while the $18 registration fee on 28million vehicles will generate $500M.

    So first let’s agree that this is a $450 million tax increase.

    But what actually seems insane to me is that the top priority for a new $450M tax would be state parks, of all things. I love California state parks, but considering the massive funding issues in this state, State Parks barely cracks the top 5 in terms of critical need.


  10. Again, and not to defend the CA legislature’s priorities in any way, but this is only a critical need to the folks sponsoring the bill. There does seem to be an insane discrepancy between how much this will raise vs how much is spent from the gen fund on the parks, so either this is fishy or this is the answer to “Won’t somebody please think about the increased usage.”


  11. Extra money sounds great! Thanks for looking it up! It all sonuded like it was just replacing funding sources. Hopefully they’ll use the extra money to fund educational programs for children & adults. Free Sly Park, anyone? Improved hiking trails, extra money to rescue workers and fire fighters, environmental studies? Sign me up!


  12. Cool things like parks are one of the things that government is supposed to do for the common good. This ballot measure is the only way we, as the people of California, are able to demand that our State Park system be funded at the adequate levels for them to stay open, even if we all pay a little more.

    The communities where many of these parks are located are economically devastated and rely on the money visitors to parks spend on gas, food, supplies and such. The economic impact of a mere $18 a year would be enormous.


  13. @cogmeyer- I agree that $450 million for state parks might seemed skewed—I’d like to see that much money go to the state’s public schools, which are now holding fundraisers to keep libraries open and pay for part time art and music teachers. (We used to have fundraisers to buy new band uniforms or send the French Club to Paris for the summer.) But that’s not the point of the ballot measure, and I don’t see why state parks should be denied the money just because schools weren’t included in the initiative.

    It’s also not realistic to fund state parks strictly through individual user admission fees. Some of the more remote parks get very few visitors, while others are busy primarily over the summer months but are virtually deserted after Labor Day. One could argue that the less used parks should be closed, while the ones that don’t receive many visitors over the winter could be open seasonally, similar to private resorts. One problem with that is that many state parks are the only stable employers in rural areas; to close them is to just spread the misery of the current economy. The other problem is that closed parks often become sites for vandalism, dumping, and squatting by the homeless, making more work for the already spread-thin local constabulary. (By dumping I don’t just mean old tires and mattresses: the abandoned quarry I used to live near used to be a favorite place for local meth dealers to drop off the bodies of their business competitors and deadbeat customers.) It makes more sense to have at least a part-time staff looking after a park year-round than closing it altogether: but in order to do that, the state needs permanent fund, which the ballot initiative would provide.


  14. Although California’s ballot INITIATIVE PROCESS is great for democratic POLICY DECISIONS, it is horrible for BUDGET DECISIONS. It creates a budget process governed by whim, kind of like Paris Hilton at a shopping mall. No rational adult (hopefully) budgets and spends their income like California does its budget. A rational, responsible adult looks at their past year’s earnings, makes the best projection for the next year’s earnings, and then decides how to spend/save that finite amount of money. A certain amount/% goes to housing, food, travel, etc, and stops when the total is 100%.

    As an environmentalist, I enjoy state parks, and have stopped visiting them because of current fees. But to create a regressive new tax on everyone is wrong. State parks land is free, how is it possible that the state parks administration can not keep a free resource available to the public at a reasonble fee like $4 to visit or $10 to camp? Someone needs to take a close look at how state park money is spent and why it takes so much money to empty trash cans and open/close the gate once a day.

    Besides being wrong in sound budgetary principle and in negating the benefits of fair user fees (user fees and a sign with what they are used for at the park site may help people remember to pick up their own trash), another $18 tax is just like what has happened with school budgets. The state lottery was supposed to solve that problem and it hasn’t. The lottery money just got sucked up by administrative bloat and we have to pass another bond ballot initiative to save the crumbling schools every year. Wake up and grow up people. Your budget process is a joke – which is why California bonds are rated as junk.


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