Vote No on Proposition 21: State Parks

This is the second part of a series of posts giving recommendations on California’s propositions. This post recommends a “no” vote on Proposition 21, which establishes a vehicle license fee in order to fund state parks.

Proposition 22 will be the subject of the next post in this series.

California’s Broken Proposition System

One of the great flaws in California’s proposition system is the way in which it creates ballot-box budgeting. Voters are always willing to spend more money on more goodies: ten million here to fund K-12 education, ten million there to fight crime, ten million to construct hospitals, ten million to protect the environment.

Five hundred million, in this latest example of ballot-box budgeting, for state parks.

But voters also don’t like high taxes. They are always willing to vote for propositions to cut taxes: tax cuts for businesses, tax cuts on mortgages, tax cuts on sales taxes, a two-thirds legislative requirement to raise taxes.

If voters want to spend money on more goodies, but also want to cut taxes for themselves, the natural result is a budget deficit. And this has been exactly the result for the past several years in California.

The power of the budget ought to lie with the elected officials that compose the legislature. That is one of the main reasons why a legislature exists: to make the tough budget decisions that will inevitably hurt somebody and be unpopular. The proposition system cripples the legislature’s ability to do this.

And Proposition 21

Proposition 21 is the latest example of ballot-box budgeting. Let’s spend five hundred million to improve California’s state parks! Who isn’t for state parks?

It will probably pass. The proposition sounds good on the surface, and nobody has a vested interest to oppose it. Donations in favor of the proposition are in the millions, while only one organization has donated more than $5,000 to campaign against the proposition.

Money, however, is not free. Five hundred million raised from vehicle taxes and spent on state parks is five hundred million that will not be used elsewhere. There are many other just as worthy causes with which that money can be spent: on social welfare or roads and infrastructure, to give just two examples. I, personally, would love to use five hundred million to reduce student tuition at the University of California system rather than to improve state parks.

In the end, Proposition 21 is a prime example of the detailed, in-the-weeds budgetary matters which too often come up in propositions. These things should not be decided at the ballot box, but by the legislature. That is its job.

That is why I recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 21.

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10 Responses to Vote No on Proposition 21: State Parks

  1. vincent says:

    Im glad it did not pass. In this economy the “people” do not need this.
    They are trying to feed their families. Give me a break. NO can do DMV
    thank for looking!

  2. Kevin says:

    I do not work for Yes on Prop 21. Politcial Party-REgistered Republican. True conservative. The CA legislature has proven not responsible enough to provide funding for state parks. There is just not enough money in the state coffers to provide for everything. You have mentioned the welfare programs such as state pensions and miscellaneous social programs. (Yes, state pension system is a welfare program). As a conservative voter, I should be against any tax increase by stereotype. But, I am agaisnt any tax increase that provides funding for causes I do not support, such as state pensions and broken welfare program and the other mindless things this liberal state engages in. If I were a legislature, why dont we unscrew the lids on the capped oil wells and produce some money for our beaufitiful state to pay for its parks and recreation. But no that would cause pollution and global warming. So to say that this process is a ballot budget measure is completely accurate and greatly appreciated, because I have the choice to support the government program or not, unlike it the countless back door budget deals that our legislautre engages. Interesting how if the people vote for this it would be labeled as a ineffective way to solve the park problem, when the only real solution is to sell it to private party or give the land over to teh Feds who have the capacity to print more money to fund the parks and recreation programs. Too bad CA is not the FED. GLAD TO SEE A BALLOT MEASURE WHERE I CAN DECIDE WHICH PROGRAM GETS SAVED AND PROTECTED. Now, hopefully this surcharge will actually pay for the government prorgam, but likely wont—Glad to see this is a TRUST FUND and not general state coffers, however. There, tell all your liberal friends, a true conservative voted for a TAX INCREASE, when the individual was given the choice of where the $$$$$ went. Have a good day.

    • inoljt says:

      Thanks for commenting, even if you disagree with my political views. I do like people who disagree and argue with me.

      I’m not entirely sure I got all of what you said there, although it seems that you’re in support of Proposition 21?

      I do think this proposition will pass because a lot of Californians will vote “yes” for similar reasons as you do, if I’m right in getting what you’re saying.

      Personally I don’t hold much passion for Proposition 21. I just think it’s another example of a broken system.

      Finally, it’s interesting to see how things like Proposition 21 draw a lot of “cross-voting” amongst the different ideological spectrum. You have a fairly liberal-minded person voting against a tax cut (me) versus a fairly conservative-minded person voting for one (you). I find that pretty cool.

  3. phen says:

    I agree Vote no on 21 I had the chance to read the petition at my school all these busy bodies signing this petition how many stopped to read it ??? few to none. I am on a fixed income trying to go to school. I don’t have money. I almost earn too much to get financial aid yet at the same time. I am budgeted with in 20 dollars every month just to keep gas in my car and a space for my rv ( much cheaper then apartment rent and flat mates.). when registration comes around I always have difficulty finding the money to pay it. its all of 64 dollars. an 18 dollar increase might not seem like much for the rest of you but it will make life much harder for those of us who live on the bottom rung. an increase in taxes. raises funding based on whether you have the income to pay for it. a flat out 18 dollar fee makes a much bigger difference to those of us on the lower rung. this is an excellent cause.. But its the wrong way to pay for it. If you vote yes. your forcing those who don’t have very much to begin with to pay more for something we cant do with out. so you can fund something we likely afford to enjoy. And don’t tell me about public transportation.. that only works where public transportation exists. If you vote for this Irresponsible bill. giving the DMV the power to say “unless pay 18 dollars to fund the state parks You cant go get groceries, drive to school. dunno if you noticed but not being able to get around kills our ability to function in this society. Dont make it harder for every one to get what they need to live. regardless of what they have.

    • inoljt says:

      Wow, that’s a very touching story. When I was writing the recommendation about Proposition 21, I hadn’t considered its effect on low-income individuals. Yet it’s true that a flat fixed tax hurts the poor more than the rich.

      Thanks so much for the story. A lot of times my writing verges too much on painting broad strokes about the system rather than about the little person, and you have certainly made me think about the little person this time.

    • vincent says:

      Nicely put Phen. You hit the nail on the head… California is major trouble why make it harder for those that are having a hard time?

  4. inoljt says:

    centauri: I have the feeling that most people will think $18/person for parks isn’t bad, although it’s still mainly a gut instinct. You might be right with that, given the 2003 history.

    Alibguy: My problem with this proposition isn’t really with state parks, but with how the proposition furthers the system of ballot-box budgeting. In my opinion, things like how to fund state parks really should be the domain of the legislature, rather than decided through the ballot box. I agree that the funding for state parks is not perfect. But you could make the same argument for a lot of other things. The University of California system is in crisis. Pensions are underfunded. Social welfare has been drastically cut. California’s Central Valley water system badly needs money. And on and on and on.

    When you have something like this, you’re going to have to compromise somewhere and leave funding for something less than perfect. If we spend more money on X, we spend less money on Y. But propositions are just a terrible vehicle for solving these complex problems, because they don’t give voters a clue about the compromises you have to make.

  5. Alibguy says:

    I respecfully disagree with your choice on Prop 21. I agree that the vehicle tax is not a good way to fund the state parks but it is better than what we have now. It is only $18 a year which is basically less than 40 cents a week. Also, you get a free year round admission to the state parks too so you do not have to worry about paying entrance fees anymore. If you are a frequent state park user, you actually save money. Also, if 21 does not pass, there is nothing to stop the legislature from giving the state parks further cuts. If the state parks lose the money, what will happen to the environmental programs that help teach people about environmental awareness? What will happen to the lifeguards who prevent swimmers from drowning? Also, what will happen to businesses who rely on tourism and all the jobs that the state parks provide?

    I am not affiliated with the Yes on 21 campaign but I think we should not wait for a better solution to save the state parks. The vehicle tax is better than nothing and nothing is what we have now.

  6. centauri says:

    Why do you think this will pass? It’s a “car tax.” After the brouhaha in 2003 I would be flabbergasted if it does.

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