Fuel Tax Surplus Could Save California State Parks

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Karen Schambach (530) 333-2545; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Fuel Tax Surplus Could Save California State Parks

Funds Earmarked for Off-Road Recreation Which Generates Only 1/6th of Revenue

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund has enough money to
save state parks from the chopping block but special interest politics
keeps it locked away, according to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). State officials contend the $60 million the Off
Highway Vehicle (OHV) Trust Fund receives each year may be used only
for projects benefiting dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles even
those these vehicles generate just 17% of the fuel tax revenue in the
fund.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced plans to close 220
of California's 279 parks, unless the Legislature finds a way to
replace $143 million in general fund monies. Yet not a single State
Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) is slated for closure, because the OHV
Division of the state Department of Parks & Recreation claims this
program is user funded - a claim that PEER disputes

"The lion's share of the millions in fuel taxes that fill the OHV
fund comes from street legal vehicles," stated California PEER
Coordinator Karen Schambach, pointing out that the OHV Division refuses
to fund any project that doesn't provide for "green sticker" recreation
for non-street legal motorcycles, ATVs or snowmobiles although nearly
83% of the funds are generated from street legal vehicles. "Both
fairness and common sense dictate that state parks should be receiving
nearly all of this revenue."

While social programs, law enforcement and fire protection programs
are being slashed throughout the state, the OHV fund continues to be
funded at full levels, primarily through transfers from Motor Vehicle
Fuel Tax revenues. Meanwhile, the OHV Trust Fund is so awash in money
that more than $5 million allocated for maintenance goes unspent but is
declared unavailable for other uses.

"The OHV Division, by refusing to fund any ‘non-green sticker'
opportunity, is in violation of the spirit and the express language in
SB742 which stipulates ‘extra consideration' for projects providing
motorized access to non-motorized recreation like swimming and hiking,"
Schambach added, urging the Legislature to reallocate the $49.8 million
dollars attributable to street legal vehicle use to the Department of
Parks and Recreation to support state parks which serve the motoring
public. "It is ridiculous to have this one branch of Parks &
Recreation hoard all these funds while hundreds of parks are on the
chopping block."

Another complication is that 67 of the parks Gov. Schwarzenegger
proposes to shutter were financed with federal funds. The National Park
Service has notified state officials that it may seize land removed
from the park system. In addition, the state may forfeit future federal
funds for park enhancements.

"Closing parks is one of the dumbest economies a tourist-dependent
state could make," added PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "California
is running ads, featuring the Governor and his wife, across the country
pitching the state's great lifestyle. Boarding up its most scenic parks
looks like false advertising."

 

Read the PEER pitch for fund reallocation

See where the fuel tax revenues come from

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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