Friday, February 20, 2009

Status Of OHV After California Budget Battle

As a native of California, I must say the recently resolved budget battle in Sacramento was ugly at best. It is difficult for many Californians (including The General) to watch the tarnish build on our Golden State.

According to my sources in Sacramento, the marathon 45-hour legislative session was the longest in California history. Most of the 41-billion dollar budget concerns have been confronted. However there are 600 million in cuts still to be done by the governor. The new budget borrows about eleven and half billion, cuts about fifteen billion and raises almost thirteen billion in new taxes.

I think our publicly funded healthcare programs, road and transportation projects,
the education system, and other state departments will take some big hits.

As some of you know there was almost one hundred million dollars in the OHV Trust fund. Thanks to the letters sent by many of you, I understand the legislature left ten million in that pot for shovel-ready projects and land purchases

While some riders may want to complain about the money being taken (and rightfully so), I can safely assume that OHMVR Deputy Director, Daphne Greene, and staff worked hard to advocate for monies to be left in the OHV Trust Fund account. And, it is because of that work (and your letters) that ten million dollars was not taken.

Yes, ninety million was taken to offset the deficit. The government does not have to pay it back for two years. Some OHV groups had suggested they take sixty and leave thirty - forty million for acquisitions. That scenario did not play out.

The OHV Trust Fund money is ours only if we spend it. Until then, the statute is very clear that the governor can take it as essentially a no-interest loan for two years.

The law was changed with statutory protections after the Wilson Administration stole OHV money back in the 1990s.

Some of you may ask… “Why did the OHV Trust Fund grow to such a large amount?” The answer is that the OHMVR Division has not been able to site a new riding area for many years. As an OHMVR Commissioner from 1994-2000, I remember traveling up and down the state from Humboldt County to San Diego County looking at potential new OHV park sites. However, once the anti-OHV crowd found out about the new plan… those groups and the NIMBY’s came out in full force to kill the projects.

However, life must go on and after the smoke has cleared I think the OHV community has the opportunity to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I think the passage of SB 742 has given OHMVR better tools to run an effective program with substantive grants for trails, restoration, and law enforcement. We should be supporting those efforts.

I believe that Daphne is working hard to identify property that will hopefully be purchased in the not too distant future. That is a goal too that deserves our support.

In the meantime it appears funds will be available to run the OHMVR program including grants to the Forest Service, BLM, and local jurisdictions. And, we have ten million dollars left in the OHV Trust Fund for the purchase of new riding

In 2009, is this something we should be proud of or happy about? Not really, but all things considered (such as major corporations going bankrupt) we should try and make lemonade out of lemons and take pride in the fact that some money is left and the OHMVR program remains.
PS - It looks like the CCC's survived as well.

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