California still withholding state parks funds
December 31, 2012
California will not return money directly to nonprofits that provided funding for state parks threatened by budget cuts without knowledge of a $54 million agency surplus. [Sacramento Bee]
AB 1478, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September, reallocated more than $10 million of the $54 million in hidden funds to “dollar for dollar” grants to match nonprofit contributions and other private sector donations to state parks threatened with closure. Yet, state lawyers ruled that matching donations with cash violated the California Constitution because it constituted a “gift of state funds.”
In November, State Parks decided instead to provide private donors with access to state employees and services to assist in operating the parks the donors helped keep open.
One such park, Morro Strand State Beach, received private funding in order to avoid closure. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing the park in 2008 as a way to reduce the state parks deficit. At the time, the agency had not reported the $54 million surplus it possessed.
More than $33 million of the $54 million in hidden funds, though, came from the Off Highway Vehicle Fund.
San Luis Obispo County’s off highway park, the Oceano Dunes State Recreation Area remains a major revenue source for the state. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed a claim on behalf of state parks against the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District over its contentious dust rule, which threatens the Oceano Dunes with fines of $1,000 per day.
Harris recently asked the court to include on the record “scathing emails” about state parks officials sent by San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. In the November 16 email, Hill threatened to fence off part of the Oceano Dunes State Recreation Area.