Proposition 21: VLF surcharge for parks

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California Forward is dedicated to offering nonpartisan, informative, straightforward information about the propositions that will appear on the November 2 ballot. We will post informational articles on each ballot measure, to help you as you make your voting decisions.

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NOTE: California Forward’s work on governance reform may be affected by several of these measures, although we have not taken a position on them – with one exception. CA Fwd opposes Prop 27. Prop 27 would reverse the landmark redistricting reform plan that was enacted by voters in 2008 as Prop 11. CA Fwd endorsed Prop 11 and has been deeply involved — with many other groups — in supporting successful implementation of the reform since enactment. The opportunity to serve California through the new redistricting commission inspired tens of thousands of highly qualified Californians to apply for the job, which we applaud. We look forward to the new, independent commission taking control of state redistricting in 2011.


This measure would create a new, stable funding stream for California state parks and wildlife programs, which have received declining amounts of financial support in recent years. The measure would add an $18 annual fee to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle, raising about $500 million a year in new revenues for state parks. After existing funding sources are offset, including current park entry-fees, the measure would provide at least $250 million annually for state parks and wildlife conservation.

A YES vote: Adds an $18 surcharge to the amount paid each year when registering a vehicle. Those revenues would be used for state park maintenance and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the fee—which include all vehicles, except commercial vehicles, trailers, and mobile homes—would be granted free admission and parking at all state parks.

A NO vote: Leaves state park and wildlife conservation funding as it exists today, with revenues coming from a range of existing state and local funding sources. Admission and parking fees would continue for all vehicles entering state parks.


State parks face an estimated $1 billion in deferred maintenance work on campgrounds, bridges, and trails—much-needed repairs to keep parks safe and accessible for 80 million visitors a year. Last year, to preserve money in the state budget, the Governor said he would need to close more than 200 of the state’s 278 parks. Though that step was never taken, the parks budget was cut, and 60 parks have curtailed their hours, with some open only on weekends.

Passing this measure would solve these problems: For only a few dollars more than the price of an existing day-use pass ($10-15 in many parks), Californians could keep parks open by providing them with a new funding stream, while also freeing up an estimated $130 million from the state’s general fund, which could then be spent elsewhere.


California’s state parks may need more financial support, but so do many programs. By levying a new $18 fee on personal vehicles, voters would carve out a stable funding stream for parks, but this type of ballot-box budgeting—which locks in park funding, no matter what else is happening in the state—often has unintended consequences and limits the Legislature’s flexibility to set priorities and write a budget.

There is also no guarantee that, in the future, this $18 fee will be sufficient to keep parks running, which would require voters to pass another ballot measure to increase it.

For more information on this and all propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot, visit the California Secretary of State website,, or


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