California’s state parks need a lot more money. Paul Rogers of the Mercury News summarizes the pluses and minuses of several key strategies. One of my copy desk cronies wrote this gem of a headline: How would you feel about ‘Budweiser Beach’? Rogers identifies five scenarios:
Pluses: Users — who generate costs — help defray them. Alternative to unpopular taxes.
Minuses: Prices the poor out of their parks, assets that benefit the whole state even if everybody doesn’t use them.
Pluses: Brands can put their names on branded activities — so, perhaps, an REI trail might encourage REI consumers to hike on it. Non-Californians let Californians off the hook financially.
Minuses: Aesthetically offensive, politically poisonous. Funding susceptible to corporations’ bottom-line pressures.
Pluses: Dedicated income stream protects parks from economic ups and downs. Reliable revenue ensures better upkeep, which attracts more people. Holds user fees down.
Minuses: Prop. 13 makes it almost impossible to create new taxes, even for things the state’s populace likes, like state parks. Creating a tax for parks makes every other interest group think they oughta have their own tax too.
Pluses: A large enough endowment generates interest payments that can pay for park operations and maintenance. Limits user fees.
Minuses: Endowment has to be huge, like a billion dollars, to generate enough income. Education interests will demand that schools get full funding before such largess is given to parks.
Plus: Free labor from true believers.
Minus: Free labor from true believers.
All of these factors add up to the situation we’re in now: Over a billion dollars worth of maintenance put off till another time. Meanwhile, parks become embarrassingly tattered and people have an excuse to take their activities elsewhere.
- Report on California’s crumbling state parks
- Governor dumps plan to close 48 state parks
- California parks department’s defense of closing 48 parks
- California state parks: more thoughts on keeping them open
- What are we going to do to save our state parks?
- California State Parks Foundation
- Pine Ridge Association
- Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks
- Angel Island Association
- Sierra State Park Foundation
OK, I’ll be first and I’ll probably catch some flak for it but I say soak the rich, make corporations pay their share, and re-examine Prop 13. When Warren Buffett says his secretary pays more income tax as a percentage of her income then he does, then something is seriously wrong. No one likes to pay taxes, I know, and certainly no one wants to think their tax money is going for wasteful spending but who wants to live in a state that is falling apart? If your house had a problem, you’d fix it. In a sense, California is our house and if we want a nice one, then we’re going to have to pay to fix it. I think of my tax bill as dues I pay for living in a civilized society. I’m not sure those who benefit the most from our society are really paying their share though, measured as a percentage of their income.
Soak the rich who are getting soaked already (in CA) income taxwise is not going to solve the problem. The 2 biggest issues I see are 1) the fact that CA expenses and payroll has been growing faster than its income and 2) CA revenues are too dependent on income taxes (a volatile revenue stream) and not enough on property taxes (because of prop 13).
At the same time, parks should be smart and find new activities for their parks to attract more visitors, and hence more fees.
Sort of a raw, rough measure of the interest in state parks: neither of these stories was among the top 15 most-read pages at mercurynews.com on Sunday or Monday. (Granted, it got kinda shunted aside in all the fire coverage).