Yes on 21

California’s state parks are precious resources, but they’re suffering from neglect. For decades, the state Legislature has failed to budget sufficient funds to take proper care of them. As a result, they now face a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog that dangerously eroded trails; deferred repairs at historic sites such as Hearst Castle; and reduced ranger patrols, leading to crime and safety concerns.

Worse, in the current legislative climate, they face possible closure, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened earlier this year.

Proposition 21 on the November ballot would change all this by authorizing a secure funding source for the parks. It would add an $18 surcharge to vehicle license fees, in return for which state motorists would get free day-use access to all parks. The surcharge would raise $500 million annually, increasing state-park and wildlife-conservation funding by $250 million, and reduce the budget deficit by $140 million.

Ordinarily, SN&R does not support ballot-box budgeting; we would much prefer that the Legislature find a way to fund the parks. But given the current climate in the Capitol, that’s not going to happen, and it would be irresponsible of Californians to allow their parks to close or degrade further.

Keeping our parks healthy is in everyone’s interest.