Is Proposition 21 a relatively painless solution to preserving the state parks in California?

Or is it an underhanded way of tricking taxpayers into footing the bill for irresponsible government leadership?

It depends on who you ask, the Lompoc Record reported, and both views are included in the official arguments in favor and opposed to the Nov. 2 ballot measure.

Prop. 21 establishes an $18 annual state vehicle-license fee to be used only for the continued protection of the state’s parks and beaches.

In exchange for paying a higher license fee, all vehicles with California plates would receive free day-use admission to all state parks.

The additional license fee will generate approximately $500 million annually, according to the state Legislative Analysts Office. The funds will be divided, with 85% allocated to state parks and 15% to other state wildlife and ocean protection agencies.

Opponents of Prop. 21, which include several taxpayer watchdog organizations, claim that while the proposition funds will be protected from politicians searching for ready cash, the Legislature could redirect the general fund monies to “other wasteful projects.”

“Instead of reducing the size of government to fit these difficult times, this new car tax will allow politicians to play a cynical budget shell game that could still leave our state parks dilapidated while diverting hundreds of millions of dollars into other government programs,” according to the sample ballot argument against Prop. 21.

Prop. 21 is also referred to by opponents as “ballot box budgeting,” and it “raises your taxes without addressing California’s most urgent issues.”

The sample ballot argument against Prop. 21 concludes by asserting, “It’s just Sacramento politics as usual and a sneaky way to increase our taxes by $1 billion every two years.

The rebuttal argument by those in favor of Prop. 21 does not address the funding switch feared by proposition opponents.

However, it does reiterate that the trust fund established by Prop. 21 can be used only for parks, and will be monitored by an oversight committee and annual audits. No word on whether the dwindling support from the state’s general fund will continue with the ballot’s passage.

The state Legislature has repeatedly cut funding to the parks and beaches, requiring many to make severe service cuts and even close part-time last year.

“The impacts of Sacramento’s neglects are devastating … parks closed, dirty and unsafe bathrooms, contaminated drinking water, buildings falling apart, dangerous and eroding trails, and delayed maintenance that only costs us more in the long run,” according to the rebuttal to the argument against Prop. 21 in the sample ballot.

The passage of Prop. 21 would keep beaches and parks well-maintained and safe, and protect local economies by preserving jobs and tourism, proponents of the ballot measure said.

California state parks attract more than 80 million visits from residents and tourists annually, according to Prop. 21 supporters.

Proposition 21 info

To learn more about Prop. 21 visit the California Secretary of State’s website www.sos.ca.gov.

Reasons to support the proposition are available at www.yesforstateparks.com and opposition to the ballot measure can be reviewed at www.voteno21.com.