ELECTION: New tax to keep state parks open

by Staff

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By Alyssa Clark, Staff Columnist

Proposition 21 has made its way into voting booths this year by representing the Vehicle License Fee for Parks. This state statute proposes an $18 annual tax which would be administered when registering a motor vehicle. The new fee would affect about 28 million vehicles and car owners who pay the tax would receive free admittance to all state parks with the registered car. This tax would not apply to permanent trailers, mobile homes and other vehicles registered within the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act.

Because of the California budget crisis, it was tallied that “60 of California’s 278 parks (were forced) to at least partially close down” because of insufficient funding last year.  The state would utilize the generated revenue to provide funding for the state parks and wildlife conservation programs, which would “establish a vitally-needed Trust Fund to keep parks open, maintained and safe.” A total of “85 percent of the money raised from the new fee would be “spent directly on maintaining and operating state parks” throughout California.

The estimated fiscal impact of this tentative proposition is said to be, “an annual increase to state revenues of $500 million from surcharge on vehicle registrations.” “Yes on 21” voters advertise this tax will help with existing state park debt by, “offsetting some existing funding sources … (and providing) at least $250 million more annually for state parks and wildlife conservation.” Currently the “annual budget for state parks makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the entire state budget” and Proposition 21 supporters want the new tax to change this.  Some of the most influential groups on the “Yes on 21” campaigns are: the California State Parks Foundation, The Trust for Public Land and the Save the Redwoods League, all of which have financially contributed to the proposition’s cause.

The “No on 21” campaign wishes to see the prospective funds directed to alternative issues such as health care, the public education system and welfare for the elderly. Funding has been donated solely by The Alliance of Automobile Manufactures and the “No on 21” platform is summed up by calling the proposition, “a pernicious example of ballot box budgeting.” By voting “No” on Proposition 21, admission fees would continue to be charged to all vehicles when entering parks and the majority of the funding would continue to come from existing state and local fund sources. Visit vote411.org/home.php to find your closest local polling station and remember to get out and vote.

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