While Senator Feinstein was busy securing millions of dollars for California National Forests and Parks (including $2 million for land acquisition in the Santa Monica Mountains – maybe that Backbone Trail will finally get finished!), our Governor was looking at the Big Book of California Budgets and decided he’d take a cue from earlier times and take some money out of the California State Park system.
The situation looks very similar to the way it did in January of 2008, when, in the face of another looming budget crisis, the Governor threatened to cut funding to schools, police and fire departments, and close 48 state parks. This time, he’s threatening to cut welfare, medical insurance for poor people, student grants and – drumroll please – tons of money to State Parks.
This time, Schwarzenegger wants to cut the General Fund for State Parks in half this year, and eliminate it completely next year.
Last year, I wrote that this threat was mostly for show – a way to shake Average Californians into the awareness of our state’s labyrinthine and absurd requirements for passing a state budget. This move also seems like a political wake-up call, perhaps to lay the groundwork for a Constitutional Convention, which, in my opinion, the state badly needs.
While the proposed cuts to the Park System are, like last year, the tiniest fraction of the total budget cuts, I kind of have a feeling they’re going to go through with them — both to make the budget crisis more real to citizens and because California is really, really, really broke right now. And because the less than 25% of voters who actually voted chose to reject budget measures that would have temporarily help alleviate some of this budget pressure, Sacramento really doesn’t have any other choice at this point.
It goes without saying that the vast majority of our State Parks probably could not survive in their current states without that General Fund money — the California State Parks Foundation estimates that 80% of our Parks would be forced to shut their gates with the Governor’s proposed budget. If the axe does end up coming down on July 1st, be sure to support your local State Parks by calling your state legislators, volunteering, and not skipping out on fees when you visit.
For now, it’s just wait-and-see. And write-letters. And hope.