Closing Parks: The Virtues of Irresponsibility

Who is to blame for the announcement of the closing of 70 state parks? One could point the finger at the Brown administration, which made the move, or state parks managers or the legislature. But in this case, California voters are themselves to blame.

How's that?

Californians have used their ballots to guarantee spending for certain favored programs -- and limit taxes. Those votes have piled up, and put pressure on parts of the budget that don't have special voter-approved protections -- like state parks.

As it happens, just last year Californians had the opportunity to give parks special budget protection through Prop 21, a plan to create a stable funding source for parks by adding a new car registration fee for parks. Californians, who paid the fee, would have received free access to the parks in return.

The initiative was criticized by many -- including your blogger -- as ballot box budgeting. And voters, in a rare fit of responsibility, turned it down. Which made it that much easier to close parks.

It's enough to make one reconsider the virtues of irresponsibility, and ballot box budgeting. Perhaps California voters should vote for measures like Prop 21 for two reasons: 1. To make it harder to cut popular programs like parks in the short term. 2. To make the budget system even more dysfunctional, thus hastening the top-to-bottom rewrite of fiscal rules that the state so badly needs.

Related: List of State Parks Targeted for Closure

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