From the June 24 San Francisco Chronicle:
What do ancient redwoods, coastal beaches and the state budget have in common? They're all at a crisis point, intersecting over a threat to close 200 state parks to save money.
The $24.3 billion financial chasm facing Sacramento has led Gov. Schwarzenegger to propose padlocking some 200 parks, which amount to 80 percent of the system, to save $70 million. It's a harsh step, one that has given the state's money problems real punch.
The governor would chain off Candlestick Point in San Francisco, Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, and Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais parks, to name a few. A total of 60 of the 61 redwoods parks would close, notes the Save the Redwoods League.
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A Democratic-dominated legislative budget panel has a better idea. Cut the state money for the parks as the governor wishes, but adopt a $15 per vehicle tax. The money would shore up the parks system, which depends in part on day visitors who drive in. The tax would also do away with present charges for daily use, which can vary from $6 to $10 per day.
Republicans, including Schwarzenegger, have sounded off, saying they oppose all new taxes to bail out the state. Along with that oft-heard sound bite goes a more general misgiving about creating taxes that are reserved for single purposes. This trend is part of the reason California's finances are so stretched.
But this fee is a modest one, and it goes to benefit all residents. The jeopardized parks are spotted up and down the state and from beaches to the High Sierra. The state park system, built over decades and prized by millions of users, must be safeguarded.