LOS ANGELES – California Proposition 21 proposes to charge an $18 per car surcharge for the parks. New Los Angeles parking meters are raking in huge sums of money. Why not apply the latter to the former and quit fleecing the electorate?
California Prop 21
The Secretary of State publishes the details of Prop 21, which essentially requires each car owner to pay an additional $18 per car during annual licensing. Supporters argue that of the possible $500 million raised, $250 million would be the actual increase in funds that the Golden State would spend on wildlife conservation and state parks maintenance. To make the measure more palatable to voters, proponents included the provision that drivers would receive free admission and day-use permits for the areas their vehicles fees helped maintain.
Los Angeles Parking Meters
KTTV Fox 11 reports that Los Angeles made $230,000 in September simply from the new parking meters that now accept credit cards. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa optimistically reveals that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) initially projected annual revenues of more than $1 million from these meters. With almost a quarter million raised in just one month of operation, this estimate may have been on the conservative end of the spectrum.
What Do L.A. Parking Meters Have to Do with Prop 21?
Street parking in Los Angeles is virtually non-existent. Steep fees await those motorists who do find a spot on the street. Thus, if the Los Angeles parking meters are so successful that they out-perform LADOT’s wildest expectations, would it not stand to reason that this overage of funds should be applied to an area of the budget that is underfunded?
A look at L.A.’s 2008-2009 city budget reveals appropriations to a Recreation and Parks Fund to the tune of $131,726,537. Of these funds, $25,185,860 is earmarked for pensions, while $26,708,724 goes to current HR needs. Not surprisingly, there is not a lot left over for anything else. If the state were to apportion the needed funds for wildlife area maintenance to the various cities, these funds might be better spent for the preservation of open lands.
Yet this is where the wasteful spending of L.A. in general and LADOT in particular comes in. Although the city has stumbled over a money-maker for Angelenos, City Controller Wendy Greuel – as outlined by NBC Los Angeles – unearthed wasteful spending that will pretty much eat up the profits as fast as they come in.
In addition to spending approximately $4 million for 625 leased GPS systems for parking enforcement vehicles, LADOT opted not to buy the devices after five years but instead wanted to keep on leasing them, which costs more. Adding insult to injury, the department spent about $213,110 in replacements that were actually covered under the warranty. Due to improper use and maintenance, now only 11 percent of units are operational.
This showcases the painful truth about throwing good money after bad: without a serious curtailing of wasteful spending, any added revenues merely go to waste as well. Moreover, while Prop 21 claims to ensure oversight, cash-strapped California has a long history of raiding funds that were set up for specific purposes.
I propose that rather than allowing the state to nickel and dime the taxpayer, it is in the electorate’s best interest to demand full accountability and a termination of wastefulness. Revenue shortfalls that are then identified may be plugged with unanticipated overages, such as Los Angeles’ parking meter windfall.
Of course, it is a lot simpler to just have the voters agree to another fee increase at the ballot box.
Secretary of State: “California Prop 21”
KTTV Fox 11: “New Credit Card-Use Parking Meters Raking In The Dough”
City of Los Angeles: “2008-2009 Los Angeles City Budget”
NBC Los Angeles: “Audit Says LADOT Contract Wasted $855,000”