People split on funding parks with new DMV fee

June 11, 2010 8:18:41 PM PDT
A new measure has been certified for the November ballot that would provide permanent funding for the state's parks. There could be a new, one-time fee, but get into the parks free all year.

Whether you want to learn about California's history or just hang out on one of its beaches, an extra $18 annual surcharge on your vehicle registration will get you unlimited access to most state parks, a good deal considering some entrance fees are $15 each.

If the measure is approved by voters, the state wouldn't have to fund the park system; parks can instead count on $500 million in dedicated DMV fees every year.

"The initiative would provide a stable source of funding, take the park system out of the budget battles every year, and give us some certainty that parks are going to be maintained," says Jim Metropulos from the Sierra Club.

Years of budget cuts have caused a backlog of more than a billion dollars in maintenance projects. At the California Railroad Museum, for instance, a roof leaking every time it rains is just one problem.

"You have to cut back on staffing. You have to cut back on projects, basic maintenance and repair issues that we have to do. I know that throughout this district, many of our parks are closed on Mondays," says Kathy Daigle from the California State Railroad Museum.

In these tough economic times, another fee increase might be a hard sell in November.

Car owners are already paying double in vehicle license fees until next summer and there's talk at the state capitol to extend it. The $18 surcharge is on top of that.

"A lot of people love going to state parks, but should everybody who has a car have to pay for those people who use the parks? I don't think so," says Seth Unger, an Assembly Republican Caucus spokesman.

In a sign of what the parks initiative might face, people ABC7 spoke with are split down the middle.

"I'd rather see a pay-as-you-go type of charge where people who like to visit the park, pay for it," says David Metzger from Fremont.

"To face losing parks, I'd probably be willing to pitch in a little bit extra," says Michelle Voelkert from Roseville.

The state has been funding parks an average of $140 million a year over the last few years; at that rate, partial closures and service reductions will likely continue.


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