Proposition 21: Annual Vehicle License Surcharge for State Parks

The Question

Should the state levy an additional annual $18 vehicle license surcharge to provide funds to operate and maintain California’s state parks and wildlife protection programs?

The Situation

California manages and operates 278 designated state parks and beaches. About half of the funding to operate and maintain state parks and wildlife lands comes from the state General Fund, with the rest coming mostly from park user fees and the state gas tax. Most state parks charge fees for entry and parking ranging from between $5.00 and $15.00 per day, depending on the park and the time of year. There is a significant backlog of maintenance projects in state parks, which have no dedicated funding source.

The Proposal

A surcharge of $18 would be added to the cost of annual vehicle registration, beginning in January, 2011. The surcharge would apply to all vehicles registered in the state, except for larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes, and permanent trailers. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would have free admission, parking and day use at all state parks. All funds generated by the $18 fee would be deposited into a new State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund, and used solely to operate, maintain, and repair state parks and for wildlife protection programs. There would be an annual independent audit of the fund and review by a citizen’s oversight committee.

Fiscal Effect

The $18 surcharge would generate about $500 million annually for the Trust Fund. However, a portion of these new revenues could be used to take the place of state General Fund monies now being spent on the parks. This could result in potential savings to the state of up to $200 million annually and increased funding for parks and wildlife programs of at least $250 million a year.

Supporters Say

  • Our state parks, beaches and wildlife are in peril. State budget shortfalls have caused funding cuts and part-time closures, sacrificing public access and safety.
  • Prop 21 will ensure the funding needed to keep state parks open, properly maintained and safe.
  • Prop 21 contains tough fiscal and accountability safeguards to assure the funds are used solely for parks and preservation of natural areas and wildlife.
  • Prop 21 will free up more than $130 million a year in the General Fund for other vital public services.

Opponents Say

  • Prop 21 is a ploy by Sacramento insiders to bring back the “Car Tax” to the tune of $1 billion every two years.
  • Prop 21 will allow politicians to play cynical budget “shell games” that could leave our state parks dilapidated while diverting hundreds of millions of dollars into other government programs.
  • Sacramento needs real budget reform and solutions. This is just more “ballot box budgeting” that makes Sacramento dysfunctional.
  • Prop 21 is a "shell game" to convince voters that the parks will not be funded if we don't vote for this measure.

Official Contact Information

Yes on 21–Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation

Californians Against Car Taxes–No on Proposition 21


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