Commentary: Saving California's state parks might fall to vehicle fees

For more than a year, critics have accused the California Department of Parks and Recreation of engaging in a "Washington Monument strategy" by threatening to close state parks in the face of budget cuts.

The term refers to a proposal by the National Park Service, many years ago, to close the Washington Monument on certain days to meet budget demands.

Critics called it a public relations stunt by bureaucrats to whip up outrage and shield them from reviewing their own internal spending.

Since 2001, the state parks department has undergone repeated budget reductions. As a result, the parks themselves now have a $1 billion backlog in deferred maintenance.

Last Friday, the governor announced a deal to cut the state parks budget without full-time closures of parks.

It, too, has the whiff of a PR stunt. Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement does not remove the threat of state park closures. It merely kicks the can down the road.

Originally, the governor sought $36 million in spending reductions from state parks. Last week's deal defers $22 million of those cuts to January.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Merced Sun-Star.