Park Access Takes a Hit in Governor’s Proposed Budget | Cal Parks
Published: January 16, 2024
Capitol Building

UPDATE: The Governor’s office has since clarified that funding to continue the California State Park Adventure Pass was included as part of his education funding proposal. The program will receive $2 million to continue programs at all 54 parks where it is currently offered. We are grateful to Governor Newsom for his Administration’s commitment to this program.  


Governor Gavin Newsom has sent a $291 billion budget proposal to the Legislature for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2024. While the budget picture was better than many feared — earlier forecasts had the deficit ballooning to $68 billion — the Governor is still projecting a $38 billion shortfall to be closed with reserves and spending cuts.  

Unfortunately, funding for a popular park access programchampioned by the Governor and First Partner was not included. The  California State Library Parks Pass was both created as a three-year pilot program in 2021. The Library Parks Pass gives library card holders free vehicle day-use entry to over 200 participating state parks. Since the start of the program, 33,000 California State Library Parks Passes have been placed in more than 1,100 public libraries. Libraries report that these passes are one of their most checked-out items.  

Last year, the California State Parks Foundation released compelling survey data highlighting the success of the California State Library Parks Pass program. The survey yielded these key insights which show the impact and importance of the program: 

  • A majority of respondents (63%) previously considered cost to be their main reason for not having visited state parks previously.  

  • Thanks to the park pass program, a staggering 90% of respondents now plan to visit state parks over seven times a year. 

  • Nearly 70% of the survey’s respondents indicated an income level of $60,000 or less. 

  • Over 63% of respondents indicated that they are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). 

Restoring $6.5 million in annual funding would be sufficient to ensure that California State Parks can continue supporting this effective program — a tiny fraction of the $291 billion the Governor proposed.   

Other Concerning Reductions

The Governor also proposed cutting two other popular programs. First, $25 million originally allocated to the Outdoor Equity Grants Program — created in 2019 with AB 209 (Limón) — will be cut for FY 25, meaning that unless funding is restored, these grants will not be available in the budget year that begins July 1. Second, the Statewide Parks Program did not receive new funding, unlike in the last several years. This popular program, first created with state parks bonds authorized by Prop. 84 in 2006 and Prop. 68 in 2018, grants funds for new parks to local communities. 

Despite our concern at the proposed cuts, we were pleased to see that the number of full-time staff positions California State Parks is authorized to hire will remain the same next year under the Governor’s proposal.

Outlook and Next Steps

In his budget announcement, the Governor stressed that this early budget proposal is just the first step in the process. The Legislature will hold hearings on the proposal to give input, and the Governor will issue a revised budget in May. The Legislature has until June 15 to send the Governor a final budget, which must be signed by June 27 to take effect at the start of the fiscal year, July 1. 

For those of you who signed our action alert in December urging continued funding for these park pass programs, thank you! We are not wasting any time in communicating our concern about these cuts to the Legislature and the Governor’s office, and there will be many more opportunities in the coming months for you to share your concerns as well. Stay tuned! 

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