Boating industry leaders demand information about the fund before budgetary decisions are made for the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
STATEWIDE—Budgetary hearings for California’s 2020-2021 fiscal year are right around the corner. A seemingly boring and routine matter – the California Constitution requires a state budget be completed annually by June 15, with the fiscal year beginning about two weeks later on July 1 – actually takes center stage for boaters. What happens in the next two to four weeks could have substantial repercussions for California’s boaters, according to Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) and other industry advocates.
California’s Department of Parks and Recreation – aka State Parks – reportedly has at least one proposal (and perhaps more) to revise the state’s Harbor and Watercraft Revolving Fund (HWRF). A position paper published on RBOC’s website stated the proposal(s) would revise the HWRF “in a process and with substantive provisions that could be detrimental to the state’s boating community.”
At heart of the issue/question posed by RBOC and other industry leaders: whether there is a deficiency in the HWRF.
“Boating stakeholders are being informed that there is a deficiency in the HWRF and that significant revisions are being considered to the boating programs and services that it funds, as well as the sources or amounts of revenues paid into the fund,” RBOC staff stated in its online position paper.
The RBOC position paper was posted online on May 4.
RBOC staff conceded it did not have specifics of any proposal sitting in front of state officials. The Log, just the same, does not have a confirmation or denial of whether the state is considering any changes to the HWRF before the constitutional deadline of June 15.
There is still concern, however, some changes could be in store, with the governor’s budget revisions this month. (Details of the revisions, if any, were not obtained before press time.)
Several boating and outdoors organizations reached out to State Parks Director Lisa Mangat on May 4, requesting answers to various questions, ahead of budgetary proceedings. Signatories on the letter represented organizations, such as RBOC, Marine Recreation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association, American Sportfishing Association, California Striped Bass Association and California Yacht Brokers Association.
“To date, we have received no specifics regarding any proposals despite a Constitutional deadline for a completed budget of June 15th,” the letter stated. “We are concerned that action could be taken in the very near future in conjunction with the release of the Governor’s May Budget Revise, with an accelerated calendar for consideration and adoption of the upcoming state budget for the fiscal year that commences on July 1.”
The letter, which boasted about 800,000 registered boats supporting a $17 billion per year economy in California, specifically asked questions or posed statements in six categories.
The questions asked and statements posed were:
– “How can the public best receive accurate information from DBW regarding its operations, programs and funds including the HWRF? Would it be possible to work with Parks to pull this data together in an easily digestible format that we could share with our members?”
– “Some of the HWRF funding is spent on programs of questionable value to California’s boating community. In other cases, HWRF funding is exclusively used for programs that clearly have other interested stakeholders who are not carrying their weight. HWRF funds are spent on the beach erosion program. Our groups would ask how a program like this is of direct benefit to boaters?”
– “Some partners are experiencing challenges in access and working with DBW to receive public funding from HWRF programs. Can the processes for the following programs be revised to re-create interest and applications, and expedite approvals process?”
– “How can our groups work with the Division and Department work proactively to identify and address current and future boater needs? For example, can non-motorized vessels that benefit from state programs and services be asked to participate financially?”
– “With regard to the Boating and Waterways Commission, what is the current status of the commission appointees? Is the COVID crisis presenting obstacles to allowing a quorum of the commission to meet on a regular basis?”
– “With regard to the location of commission meetings … could attendance and participation by affected communities be improved by locating more meetings in the Sacramento region?
The HRWF, for clarity, does not receive General Fund dollars. Answers to the questions posed above, according to RBOC and other organizations, would keep boaters in the loop as to how money that is supposed to be available to them is being used – and whether such funds would continue to be available to the state’s boating industry.