Governor Reduces Boat Registration Fee Increase in Revised 2021-22 Budget Proposal

After significant input from boating advocates and the community, the proposed fee for the two-year California recreational vessel registration went from $70 in the January proposed 2021-22 budget to $40 in the May revision.

SACRAMENTO— Governor Gavin Newsom has released a revised version of his 2021-22 budget and included is a reduction in the proposed vessel registration fee increase. The revised May 2021-22 budget will increase the cost of the two-year California recreational vessel registration from the current $20 to $40. The previous budget proposal released in January included a 250 percent increase to $70 biennially.

The revised budget would also increase a proposed two-year, $20 million spending level for the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund by $10.7 million over the next four years. The HWRF is the primary fund source for boating programs managed by the California Division of Boating and Waterways.

California State Parks had proposed the registration fee increase to address what staff said will be a $52 million annual deficit in the HWRF and to maintain the current service levels. The increase was proposed as a solution for short term solvency for the fund as the department worked with stakeholders to come up with a long-term solution.

“We’re appreciative of the significant changes,” said Jerry Desmond, Esq., director of Government Relations for Recreational Boaters of California.

RBOC was part of a coalition of boating stakeholders, which also included Boat Owners Association of The United States, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Marine Recreation Association, the California Association of Harbor Masters and Port Captains, and the California Yacht Brokers Association, that have been advocating for six key changes to the budget proposal, including significantly reducing the registration fee increase and redirecting a portion of the $107 million in annual boat fuel tax dollars to the HWRF.

The groups had raised concern that of the $107 million boaters pay each year in fuel taxes to the state, only $15 million is provided to the HWRF for programs and services that directly benefit boaters. The rest goes to the State Parks’ general fund, which staff said also benefits boaters.

“I don’t think boaters are opposed to fees but they want to see that’s its going into the programs and projects that are going to help them get out on the water,” said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy.

RBOC and BoatUS reported more than 4,000 individuals from the boating community also advocated, contacting their California state legislators and the governor’s office asking for a reduced registration fee increase.

“This kind of input really does have an impact on what happens with policies,” said Kennedy. “…Getting that kind of input from the boaters is so important and I think we’re seeing the results of that.”

Desmond said they are continuing to advocate for other budget provisions. As the budget stands now, it establishes a stakeholder process to develop long-term funding approaches to the HWRF over the next few years. Desmond said they are advocating to get that stakeholder process solidified through a statute.

“As we try to stabilize the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund going forward that the boaters have input into it and we think it’s a much better process,” said RBOC President Winston Bumpus.

Bumpus said they would also like to have an economic impact assessment study done on boating in California.

June 15 is the deadline for the legislature to pass a budget to the governor, who will need sign off on it before the next fiscal year begins on July 1. The provisions included in the budget can still be changed up until it is voted on.

“We’re trying to preserve what the governor has offered and then accomplish more with those other provisions, especially that stakeholder process,” said Desmond.

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