On The Fence About Prop 21?
- by T.Friedman and C.G.Ward, Editors,

Many people are still trying to make up their minds about Prop 21. We love parks, we also dislike taxes. And this is a particularly difficult year for California: high unemployment, wasteful spending by California legislature, and a terribly unbalanced budget. Alot of Californians are going to the polls committed to fix these problems, to stop wasteful spending and make California responsible for its local and state programs. As you consider your position on Prop 21, we encourage you to read our responses to the following FAQs:

"I've already been paying taxes for parks. This is a perfect example of additional wasteful spending."

Unfortunately, parks haven't fully benefitted from these taxes for over 30 years. This is not just popular opinion, it is also evidenced in the CA State Government's own actions. In May 2009, Schwarzenegger trimmed another $14.2 million from the department's budget, which led to the partial closure of approximately sixty parks and service cuts to another ninety. And this same restricted amount was just allocated to parks for 2010-2011. We would also like to believe CA legislators could spend wisely, but their track record shows that this cycle of neglect will continue. Prop 21 ensures that your investment in parks actually gets there.

"But I don't go to parks, why should I pay for them?"
"Pay-for-use" doesn't work for large public services that require long-term consistent funding. Consider the way we already pay for our libraries, highways, schools. We wouldn't force just parents pay for schools would we? Why are 100,000 year old parks any different? Also, consider that independent studies have shown that CA State Parks are very profitable for CA. Many businesses near state parks are totally dependent on the parks for customers. Not to mention that both parks and local businesses also create more jobs. Motels, hotels, grocers, restaurants, gas stations, concessionaires and other small businesess near parks are able to employ more people when parks are open. Unemployment hasn't been this high since 1982. One of the things we want to do is put more people to work.

"But if parks are profitable, why do they need MORE funding?"
Just because the parks earn the state money, doesn't mean the state gives it back to them. As well, because of chronic underfunding, parks face over $1,000,000,000 in backlogs to park maintenance. This backlog needs to be addressed and each year it becomes larger and more expensive to do the things that were needed from prior years. The State Parks will never get ahead of the curve on this with the restricted funding they've been receiving for the last 30 years. Prop 21 secures tax dollars to directly address this backlog as well as future improvements.

"$18 is alot of EXTRA money."
$18 isn't as bad as you think. Consider that it currently costs $15 to go to Huntington State Beach ONE TIME. Two visits to most parks in per year, and you're ahead of the game.

"This is a regressive tax. It's unfair to the poor."
Many people feel poor and unemployed families can't afford the $18. We disagree. When times are bad, parks offer a primary source of entertainment. $18 is the price of two movie tickets, one pizza, or nosebleed seats at the ball game. $18 for a year of unlimited access to all state parks may be the greatest entertainment value in the state. We have never heard a person with limited income say that $18 is too much a year for what parks provide.

"I won't vote for a 'car tax'."
This rhetorically charged phrase from the No on 21 campaign team counts on us to not look deeper at this issue beyond the word 'tax'. What makes Prop 21 a hard decision is that State Parks are at stake. Parks matter to all Californians, and that's why they aren't mentioned in this deceptive label.

"Regardless, Prop 21 is another tax, and I am fundamentally opposed to all new taxes. The government needs to learn fiscal responsibility."
Don't punish State Parks for the errors of CA State government. As we've discussed above, the parks have been responsible and productive, simply underfunded. Prop 21 empowers the park professionals to do what they need to do to fix this problem. In a time of restricted spending and We're counting on Californians to not be polarized about taxation. Fiscal responsibility also means knowing the right places to invest money in the long-term health of California. I hope we can evaluate this issue for its merits and not see agreeing to taxes as an all-or-nothing party line capitulation.

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Christopher Grant Ward