Election 2010: Proposition 21 would hike license fees to save state parks | SierraSun.com

Election 2010: Proposition 21 would hike license fees to save state parks

Greyson Howard
Sun News Service

Sun File PhotoSugar Pine Point State Park in Tahoma on Tahoe's West Shore is busy with campers and visitors throughout the year, including the winter months.

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. and#8212; With issues ranging from electing a new governor to voting on the legalization of marijuana on the Novemberand#8217;s ballot, itand#8217;s easy to lose track of Proposition 21, aimed at saving state parks.

Advocates say the additional $18 a year the measure would tack onto vehicle license fees would give California State Parks its first stable funding source in years and#8212; and deserves votersand#8217; attention.

In exchange for the fee, drivers would get free day use at all state parks.

and#8220;Over the last three years, the state parks budget has been cut significantly twice, and the governor has proposed to give us no general fund money, and threatened to close the parks,and#8221; said California State Parks Rangers Association President Pam Armas.

The $18 would add up to $500 million a year for state parks to bring back staff and chip away at a $1 billion backlog of repairs and maintenance at the 279 parks across the state, Armas said.

A year ago, hours were reduced at Empire Mine in Grass Valley and Donner Memorial Park in Truckee, among others in the state; patrols were reduced at South Yuba River State Park; officials talked of closing down Malakoff Diggins in Nevada City permanently and#8212; all when the state axed $14.2 million from the park systemand#8217;s budget.

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Virginia Brunini, who played a key role in getting the Empire Mine designated a state historic park, said the parks are important to the region.

and#8220;When I collected 7,500 signatures to save the state parks, everybody who signed had a connection,and#8221; Brunini said. and#8220;They took classes at a state park, went to a wedding at Empire Mine, entertained out-of-town guests and#8212; itand#8217;s woven into the fabric of our community, and it canand#8217;t be jeopardized every year.

and#8220;These are our state treasures, and they should not be treated so casually.and#8221;

But with just about every facet of state government hurting for funding, why state parks?

and#8220;State parks are the second-largest education entity in the state, second only to the Department of Education,and#8221; Armas said. and#8220;State parks house some of the most precious California resources.and#8221;

Communities including Grass Valley, Nevada City and those around Lake Tahoe rely on state parks to bring visitors and#8212; and revenue and#8212; to town, the measures supporters argue.

But opponents have doubts about an additional tax in a down economy.

and#8220;As well-intended as this measure may appear, Prop. 21 is nothing more than a $1 billion car tax every two years on Californians, while offering no guarantee that state parks will be repaired or kept open.and#8221; wrote Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, in an argument against the proposition.

and#8220;Even worse, voting for Prop. 21 only enables and encourages the Sacramento politicians to maintain their wasteful spending while finding deceptive ways to increase our taxes,and#8221; Coupal wrote. and#8220;Vote and#8216;noand#8217; on Prop. 21.and#8221;