Cash-strapped California dips into OHV cookie jar

Publish Date: 
May 31, 2012

A California state assembly committee today voted to transfer up to $31 million from the state's Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund to pay for non-OHV related programs in the cash-strapped state.

The $31 million transfer would slash the amount in the OHV trust fund by one-half, according to Don Amador, western representative for the Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC).

The action, by the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation, is part of the Sustainable Parks Proposal championed by, among others, the California Parks Foundation and State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

According to the BRC, the plan will directly impact destination OHV areas throughout the state, including riding areas on the Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forests, the BLM Cow Mountain Recreation near Ukiah, and the BLM Samoa Dunes Recreation Area near Eureka.

"Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee) was the lone voice on the committee that opposed the continued theft of trust funds monies," BRC stated.

“After witnessing today’s vote, it is clear to me that urban legislators have made the conscious decision to engage in political warfare against rural interests, economies and local elected officials," said Amador.

"It also daylights the false promises made to special 'user fee' programs (e.g. OHV, boating and waterways, special license plates, etc.) that their dedicated funds are protected," Amador continued. "Rather, it points to the fact that those funds will be raided in perpetuity to help mitigate the legislature’s failure to substantively address the state’s fiscal crisis.

“It is also interesting to note that not one of the Sustainable Parks Program’s proponents had the courage to show up and speak in favor of the plan at today’s hearing. Equally disappointing was that State Park leadership sat in stone cold silence while this issue was being discussed. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in California,” Amador concluded.

The American Motorcyclist Association earlier issued an "Action Alert" calling on California constituents to urge lawmakers to reject the transfer plan. "This is not a loan but a taking of money which will never be repaid," the AMA stated.

"The OHV trust fund is fueled by taxes paid on gasoline used by OHV recreationists and should be used to maintain OHV recreational opportunities," the AMA asserted. "The OHV community has always acted responsibly and paid its own way, and has never depended on general tax monies or park bonds. What right does the state assembly have to redirect funds collected directly from OHV recreation activities, and use them for any purpose other than to support OHV recreation?

"The proposal made by Sen. Simitian is purportedly only to be in effect for the next three years," AMA continued. "However, history has shown that just like OHV areas, once funding is lost, it never comes back."

Representatives the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, the AMA, AMA District 36, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, and the BlueRibbon Coalition spoke at the meeting.

Posted by Mary Slepicka

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