Governor Newsom releases his proposed budget, kicking off a five-month long budget process with the California state legislature.
On Friday, January 11, Governor Newsom released his proposed state budget for FY 2021-22. The record-breaking $227 billion budget outlines the Governor’s funding priorities for the year ahead, including critical support for California’s state parks.
Given the historic economic and public health challenges of the past year, Governor Newsom’s proposed budget focuses state resources on addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and spurring economic recovery. This includes a $5 billion immediate action package providing renter protections, housing development, $600 stimulus checks for low-wage workers, incentives to reopen schools, and aide to small businesses.
Because of California’s conservative approach to revenue forecasts in the last budget cycle, the state is now operating with a $15.5 billion surplus. This is welcome news, but we are not out of the woods yet. Analysts predict that California will continue to face economic challenges from the pandemic for years to come.
California’s state parks see important investments in access and climate resilience.
Given the monumental and ongoing challenges facing the state, we are heartened to see the governor’s budget recognize the essential nature of our state parks. For more information on how state parks are funded, read our past blog post on funding.
Governor Newsom’s proposed budget outlines funding for critical initiatives to support increased access to state parks and climate resilience.
Access to State Parks
In California, over half of young people under 18 live within an easy walk, bike, or drive from one of our 280 state park units. That percentage is even higher for disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged households, yet many Californians lack access to the health and wellness benefits parks provide.
The Governor’s budget puts significant focus on expanding park access for low-income and disadvantage communities throughout the state of California with $82 Million for the “Advancing Parks for All” initiative. This initiative includes:
$33.4 Million for Woolsey Fire restoration projects to restore destroyed facilities and trails.
$20 Million to support deferred maintenance projects that improve access and enhance the visitor experience.
$12.7 Million Youth Community Access Grant program to the California Natural Resources Agency that supports youth access with a focus on low-income and disadvantaged communities.
$2.7 Million to support to improve public access at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
$585 Thousand to continue the Community Liaison programs that engage underserved and underrepresented urban communities.
California is considered one of the most climate-challenged regions in North America and our ability to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change will shape the future of our state. The governor’s proposed budget outlines funding for climate adaptation measures, including a $1 Billion Wildfire and Forest Resilience Expenditure Plan. This plan provides $85 Million to Protecting Forests in State Parks by increasing the pace and scale of forest management in state parks.
The governor’s budget proposal is just the beginning.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Californians have relied on state parks for access to the outdoors and the healing powers of nature. With so many competing and urgent demands being made of our state government, Governor Newsom’s investment in the state parks system is encouraging, but we know more is needed to protect these incredible places.
Last year’s wildfires burned over 4.18 million acres across California and over 115,000 acres across 22 state parks. Addressing the damage caused by these wildfires may take years to address, adding to state parks’ existing $1 Billion deferred maintenance needs and impacting Californians’ ability to access and enjoy these places.
Over the coming months, California’s state legislators will convene hearings on the state budget. By May 15, Governor Newsom will release a revised budget that reflects received tax collections and current economic forecasting. A balanced budget is required to be passed the State Legislator by the constitutional June 15 deadline.
At every step of the way, California State Parks Foundation will be advocating for your state parks. We’ll need help from park supporters like you to ensure the final budget protects and preserves our state parks, so stay tuned!