Saturday, 25 May 2024

Legislature's Budget Conference Committee votes on state park funding proposals

LAKE COUNTY – A Monday decision by a legislative committee could help keep 220 state parks proposed for closure – including Anderson March – open to the public.

The Budget Conference Committee voted on Monday afternoon to eliminate $70 million in state general fund support for the state park system for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, according to a report from the California State Parks Foundation.

That action by itself isn't good news for parks. However, while the committee voted to get rid of state general fund support, it took another action, voting to adopt the State Park Access Pass as part of creating a dedicated funding source for parks.

The plan calls for establishing a $15 surcharge on vehicle license fees of noncommercial vehicles. That, in turn, would provide free day-use access to state parks, officials reported.

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month issued his list of parks to close – out of an estimated 279 statewide – he suggested the measure in an effort to save $143 million in general fund support.

On the closures list is Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, as Lake County News has reported. Clear Lake State Park was spared because much of its support comes from boat and gas tax.

The closures are proposed despite the more than $4.3 billion – or $57.63 per visitor – that a study released earlier this month found that state parks bring to the state's economy. Based on visitor spending estimates, the nearly 150,000 visitors that Lake County's parks draw should spend more than $7 million locally.

“Adopting the State Park Access Pass keeps the doors open to state parks for Californians and for the California economy," said California State Parks Foundation Elizabeth Goldstein. “At a time when the state desperately needs to generate revenues for many other critical state services, it makes sense to keep state parks open and available for the public. The committee recognized that closing state parks won't save money, it will cost the state dearly.”

The State Park Access Pass plan arose out of a proposal that the foundation and former Assemblyman John Laird made last year for the fiscal year 2008-09 budget.

What the committee accepted on Monday differed from the previous proposal because of the $15 fee – rather than the original $10 – in order to save $143 million in general fund savings annually. In exchange for the fee, those entering state parks with a California license plate would receive free day-use entrance. The original proposal estimated the $10 fee would raise $282 million for parks.

Goldstein said the foundation is hopeful that the access pass will receive strong support from the entire Legislature.

The Budget Conference Committee's actions are expected to be compiled into a budget bill that both houses of the Legislature will consider for a vote, but when the vote will take place hasn't been announced.

To pass the budget, it must receive approval from two-thirds of the Legislature's two houses plus get the governor's signature.

California lawmakers reportedly missed the Monday deadline in order to get a state budget in place by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

For more on the foundation's Save Our State Parks (SOS) campaign visit .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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