Proposition 21: California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010

From the vast stretches of sandy beaches along California’s magnificent coastline to the towering redwoods and much‐needed recreational areas in the state’s bustling urban centers, California’s 278 state parks are priceless public assets and a vital legacy for our children and grandchildren.

But the state’s parks are in peril. Chronic underfunding is starving state parks, causing them to fall severely behind in needed maintenance and repairs. Twice in the past two years, state parks were on the brink of being shut down. Only last‐minute budget reprieves kept them open. Last year, nearly 150 state parks were shut down part‐time or suffered deep service reductions because of budget cuts, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected this year. California’s parks are becoming less available to the public and are at serious risk of irreversible damage.

That is why Prop. 21, slated for the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, will create the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund. The fund will provide a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding for the state park system, for wildlife conservation and for increased and equitable access to those resources for all Californians.

Prop. 21 will give California vehicles free day-use admission to the state parks in exchange for a new $18 vehicle license fee, which will be specifically dedicated to state parks and wildlife conservation.  The surcharge will apply to most California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles, and will be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the annual vehicle license fee. It will not apply to larger commercial vehicles (those subject to the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act), mobile homes or permanent trailers.

Supporters of  Prop. 21 include The Nature Conservancy, California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association, Public Health Institute, California Travel Industry Association, California Labor Federation, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), AFSCME Califonia PEOPLE, Sierra Club California, Valley Industry and Commerce Association, Audubon California, Central Valley Tourism Association, California State Lifeguard Association, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, California Lodging Industry Association, Latino Health Access, California State Conference of the NAACP, and the California State Parks Foundation.

California State Parks in Peril Because of Chronic Underfunding…

California’s parks, once considered the best in the nation, are falling apart because of chronic underfunding. Roofs and sewage systems leak, restrooms are not cleaned regularly, bridges have collapsed, trails are washed out, campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered and buildings and structures throughout the system are badly deteriorated.
With no reliable source of funding, the state parks have accumulated a backlog of more than $1 billion in maintenance and repairs.
Thousands of scenic acres are closed to the public because of reductions in park rangers, and crime has more than doubled. Destruction and vandalism of the parks themselves has grown fourfold, and beachgoers are often unprotected because of decreases in lifeguards.
The parks are in such peril that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named California state parks one of the 11 most endangered sites in America.

Protect State Parks and Wildlife by Creating a Conservation Trust Fund…

To ensure Californians have the high‐quality, well‐maintained state park system they deserve, Prop. 21will establish the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund in the state treasury where, by law, it could only be spent on state parks, wildlife conservation, natural lands and ocean conservation programs. The Legislature couldn’t reallocate the Trust Fund for other uses.

Funding for the Trust Fund will come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California cars, motorcycles and recreational vehicles that will be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the annual vehicle license fee. Larger commercial vehicles (those subject to the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act), mobile homes and permanent trailers will be exempt.

California vehicles subject to the State Park Access Pass surcharge and all occupants of those vehicles will receive free day-use admission to all state parks throughout the year, which currently costs as much as $125 for an annual pass or $10‐$15 per day. Out‐of‐state vehicles will continue to pay full entrance fees at parks.

Trust Fund revenues will amount to approximately $500 million each year (based on about 28 million registered vehicles) and 85 percent will be allocated to state parks and 15 percent to other state wildlife and ocean protection agencies.

With a new dedicated revenue stream in place, more than $130 million of General Fund dollars ‐ that provide a portion of overall state park funding ‐ will now be available for other vital needs, like schools, health care, social services or public safety.

State Parks Strengthen the Economy and Serve as a Legacy for Future Generations…

State parks strengthen the economy by attracting millions of tourists, who spend $4.32 billion annually in park‐related expenditures in California, according to a recent study. It found state park visitors spend an average of $57.63 in surrounding communities per visit. They generate so much economic activity that every dollar the state spends on state parks generates another $2.35 for California’s treasury.

Every year, there are nearly 80 million visits to state parks, where the abundance of outdoor activities entices visitors to exercise and lead healthier lifestyles. Parks contribute to public health by protecting forests and natural areas that are sources of clean air and water and by combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. They also protect the state’s wide diversity of plants and animals, preserve an unparalleled collection of historic and cultural assets and provide exciting educational opportunities for young and old alike.

Tough Fiscal & Accountability Safeguards to Protect the Voters’ Investment…

The Trust Fund will be subject to an independent audit by the State Auditor every year. The findings will be released to the public, placed on the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s website and submitted to the State Legislature for review as part of the state budget.

Citizens’ Oversight Committee will be created to ensure funds from this measure are spent appropriately.

Audit, oversight and administrative costs of this measure will be limited to just 1 percent of the annual revenues.
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