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Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

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Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

Postby ERIC » Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:42 am

Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

Tom Stienstra
Sunday, June 7, 2009
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 1817AT.DTL


To start the day Monday, what some say is D-Day for California's state parks, Gov. Schwarzenegger could set a state tax dollar on his desk.

He could then cut that dollar in half, that is, the half that goes to K-12 education, and then convert rest to change. Of the remaining 50 cents, he could then sweep 12 cents into a jar, the money that goes to state prisons. Of the remaining 38 cents that pays for everything else, the governor could take one single penny and cut it into 10 tiny pieces.

Under a microscope, he could then admire one of those pieces and say, "Look how much money I can save from the tax dollar by closing 220 state parks. I could save one-tenth of one percent of the general fund. What a deal!"

Schwarzenegger could then call in the state's economic advisers and his vice governors to discuss how to spin this in a press conference. "I'm not really closing state parks. We're just going to have them pay their own way. We must save the budget for the great state of California." This is an excellent idea, his advisers agree: "Just have all state parks pay their own way."

To keep parks open and operate as they are now, the Department of State Parks would have to triple user fees. Entrance fees would average $18 per vehicle. Visiting a state beach in Southern California would cost $30. Camping would cost $60 to $100 per night, more at Monterey Bay. If there was a decrease in visits, the fees could be raised again. "The parks must pay their own way," the governor might say. "If they can't, we'll have to close them."

At that point, continuing our scenario, a tax expert for the state might point out: "According to a study by UC Berkeley economists, for every dollar we put into State Parks, we're actually investing $2.35 into the general fund from sales tax and jobs. When you look at the multiplier effect, all the money in support of trips to parks, closures would devastate local economies."

The tax expert could cite a case in point from last year. "When fires closed Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for 10 months, State Parks lost $2 million in revenue from user fees and the Big Sur community reported it lost $40 million in total revenue from the multiplier effect."

Schwarzenegger would likely then survey his vice governors. "All this makes me look like an idiot, to think cutting off State Parks would solve our budget deficit. Why have you advised me to do this?"

"We are in crisis and we must act immediately," answers one.

If the cuts take effect, State Parks would stay open until Labor Day, explained a bean counter. After that, Ruth Coleman, the director of State Parks, would then be forced to order parks closed. Only parks that produce positive revenue would stay open. California parks would then cascade into oblivion, including 60 of 61 redwood parks.

Last year, roughly 80 million people used state parks, mentions an economist.

If this proposal were to take place, come fall at the governor's office, Gov. Schwarzenegger could review that 220 state parks were closed, and then hold up that slice of a penny, and proudly say, "Look what we did to save California."


E-mail Tom Stienstra at tstienstra@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page C - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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Re: Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

Postby rlown » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:52 pm

I'm thinking that we should be able to look at the cost of a state park to stay open, and adjust the user fees accordingly to keep it open, based on number of visitors and other factors. By costs, that means are we paying for extras we don't know about? (retirement, pension, pet projects, etc)

If they'd just lay the numbers and costs out on the table, a rational person could make a choice to participate or not. If the fees have to go up, so be it. Every branch of the Govt should have to prove viability on the economic dashboards that all well-run companies do today, to their shareholders.
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Re: Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

Postby dave54 » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:30 pm

The state is in a major fiscal crisis. The state has not been able to finance all the goodies the taxpayers have demanded for decades. Smoke and mirrors Enron style accounting has papered over the deficit for years, but now that option is no longer available. It is time to pay the piper. On the priority scale of government functions state parks are pretty far down the list. I want the government to do what every working family does when the family income is cut -- go on an extreme belt tightening and start eliminating every expense that is not absolutely essential. Parks are in that category.

I do not like closing parks either but given a choice of painful options closure is the lesser among evils.

As a reminder -- the article was in the Chronicle. Their editorial position has consistently been there is no expanded government program or tax increase they did not like. Stienstra is toeing the official newspaper line of never cutting any government spending no what the circumstances.
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Re: Parks don't cost much, - closing them would

Postby rlown » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:32 pm

dave54 wrote:The state is in a major fiscal crisis. The state has not been able to finance all the goodies the taxpayers have demanded for decades. Smoke and mirrors Enron style accounting has papered over the deficit for years, but now that option is no longer available. It is time to pay the piper. On the priority scale of government functions state parks are pretty far down the list. I want the government to do what every working family does when the family income is cut -- go on an extreme belt tightening and start eliminating every expense that is not absolutely essential. Parks are in that category.

I do not like closing parks either but given a choice of painful options closure is the lesser among evils.

As a reminder -- the article was in the Chronicle. Their editorial position has consistently been there is no expanded government program or tax increase they did not like. Stienstra is toeing the official newspaper line of never cutting any government spending no what the circumstances.


I wasn't trying to bash the "chronicle" or the "fiscal crisis." If any branch of CA govt can show (park service, etc) they can break even or show a profit at projected funding levels, and what the levers are to do so (raise entry/use fees), then they stay. On the budget, i'm more aimed at those parts of the gov't that cant.

If a State park needs to raise Use fees, so be it. If they don't produce after 6 months, they get shut down. All fees have gone up, everywhere, for everything; why should we expect to get access unless it's based on actual cost to support somewhere we like to visit?

I don't like dole'ing out money that has no return.

For Fishing, i'm more concerned about the publicly unknown projects that go on, and where that funding comes from. I did post on another thread about the matching strategy between state and federal before about how this stuff is funded. I'm gonna have to dig that up again, i fear.

Russ
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