Natural Bridges State Beach is one of Countless California State Beaches Threatened by the Budget Crisis
Sorry to stray from the usual format, but I received an e-mail from Governor Schwarzenneger today. I wanted to share it with you along with my reply.
Here’s what he wrote:
Thank you for writing to me about funding for our state parks system. Your input is important to me during these challenging times.
California’s natural beauty is renowned throughout the world, and I have made it my priority to protect our environment so future generations of Californians can continue to experience and enjoy what we have all come to love. Our state parks provide a fantastic introduction to the California experience and help bring our residents and visitors closer to our landscapes.
Unfortunately, the state cannot continue to bear the costs of supporting every program. Believe me when I say that these cuts have been the hardest decisions of my career as Governor, but we are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Our revenues for the coming year are at least 27 percent below where they were projected to be just two short years ago. We now face a shortfall that has grown to $26.3 billion, and the people of California have made their voice clear: they want the state to live within its means and solve its problems through spending cuts and not tax increases.
To help manage our budget shortfall, I have proposed eliminating General Fund support for the Department of Parks and Recreation. I understand that these cuts will impact not only the lives of our park employees but the millions of park visitors who visit these national treasurers every year. In spite of these General Fund cuts, though, I will work to keep as many parks open as possible with funding from user fees. It may require raising entry and camping fees, expanding partnerships with local government and non-profit groups, and seeking additional creative ways to support our system in the future.
As I work with my partners in the Legislature to find solutions to these problems, know I will keep your thoughts in mind. Working together, I believe we can weather this storm and start the slow but steady march back toward prosperity.
Here’s my reply:
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I want to reiterate that I believe that a vehicle license fee would be the user fee that would save the most state parks, while still freeing up money for the general fund. As you are aware, they have been very successful in Montana with an optional fee. Those who pay the fee get free day use and parking. I presume that those who do not pay the same fees as out of state visitors.
Please, please consider something similar. I believe that this would save the parks and stimulate local economies. Everyone I have talked to from State Park docents to my husband the Republican agrees that this would be an excellent solution. I am sure that if you let the legislature know that you are open to such a bill, it would be passed by a majority. As you have seen with the torrent of e-mail and postcards, the State Parks have many supporters here in California.
Thank you for your hard work during this budget crisis. I have profound respect for you and the difficult choices that you must make on behalf of all Californians.