OHV TRUST FUND OR “NOT WITH MY TAX MONEY YOU WON’T”

A short time ago we attended a public meeting regarding the strategic planning goals and objectives for Carnegie State Vehicle Recreation Area (The General Plan). When a Carnegie rider recommended opening the Alameda/Tesla property for off highway vehicle use, someone else yelled, “not with my tax money you won’t”.

Where did this guy get the idea that he and his anti-off highway motor vehicle brethren purchased the Alameda/Tesla property with their hard earned cash? What tax money was he talking about?

Was he confusing Carnegie, and by association Tesla, with a park ran by the California  Department of Parks and Recreation? Was he aware that the property was acquired as an extension of Carnegie SVRA for off-highway vehicle recreation?

The California Division of OHV Recreation, a department within the Department of Parks and Recreation, was created to provide  places for off-highway motor vehicle recreation. Was he confusing our park with a park run by California Department of Parks and Recreation which is dependent on the generic California taxpayer and which does not provide for off-highway motor vehicle recreation?

Unlike other California State Parks, the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) community does not use general tax dollars to operate and maintain their system of recreational areas. OHV recreation is funded exclusively by taxes paid on gasoline used recreating off-highway, red and green sticker registration fees and entrance fees to the State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRA’s).

We  thought we would be insulated from money woes by finding these other sources of revenue raised solely from the OHV community. Unfortunately our fund has been used to shore up the general fund ever since it was created.

Last year some of the non-OHV state parks (other parks) had to close their doors because of the deficit and a lack of money in the general fund. The legislature then gave $7 million OHV fuel tax dollars to other parks to make up for the other parks lack of independent funding. It was initially $21 million but Governor Brown cut it down to $7 million.

Maybe he thinks other state parks (and by some weird twist of logic his anti-OHV brethren) are entitled to our fuel tax dollars and by the same twist of logic they own  our park.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a one-time budgetary transfer to save the other parks from their own lack of financial oversight.

Besides Tesla, as they call it, is an OHV park. How on earth does his tax money support our OHV park?

You don’t have to go far to understand the basis for his confusion. I went to the Friends of Tesla website which is full of the most inept distortions. See: http://www.teslapark.org/?p=1269

Even it were true (for purposes of argument) that during the years that the Alameda/Tesla property was purchased the method used for calculating the amount of fuel used off road was flawed; it does not lead to the conclusion that Friends of Tesla own our park.

Friends of Tesla contend that we receive “over double the amount of pubic tax dollars that can objectively be attributable to actual OHV use”. The authority for this statement is Karen Schambach who wrote a report called In the Money and Out of Control. This is hardly an unbiased neutral document written by an authority on California Tax Revenue.

Along with Karen Schambach (PEER) it was written in association with California Wilderness Coalition, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, Friends of Hope Valley, Friends of the River Planning and Conservation League, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Sierra Club California and the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

These are the usual suspects that attend public meetings with various legislative committees and use their influence to undermine our sport.

Karen has a tendency to leave out important details. She has spent the better part of her life trying to destroy off highway motor vehicle recreation in California and is hardly an unbiased authority on how fuel tax money should be calculated to take account of OHV use.

As a member of PEER she was one of the individuals responsible for filing the failed lawsuit to close down Carnegie because, they said, we were killing fish.  She is behind many other efforts to curtail use of traditional off road riding venues.

Her treatise quibbles with the way fuel tax dollars are directed to the OHV Trust Fund.

In fact, throughout the years the calculation for fuel used by off-highway vehicles has been adjusted to reflect changes in the popularity of off road recreation. These adjustments affects the amount of fuel tax money transferred to the OHV Trust Fund. Although it is difficult to accurately measure the exact amount of fuel used by off road vehicles, the legislature makes periodic changes on how that amount is calculated.

The individuals who quibble over fuel tax use by the OHV community try to diminish the amount of fuel tax transferred into the OHV Trust Fund. They support the Democratic majority in the state legislature who attack our trust fund and steal our money.

The Democratic majority has been cutting funding and stealing our money (over two hundred million dollars) ever since the Chappie-Z’berg Law created California’s OHV program in 1971. Karen and her brethren  actively  support the looting of our trust fund and have done so for years.

Besides the unpaid loans, they took almost $10 million a year out of the OHV Trust Fund and transferred it to the General Fund (this was not a loan and it represented a permanent change in the code to transfer fuel tax money to the general fund before it is transferred into the OHV trust fund).

What is not mentioned in Karen’s treatise is that the 2008 amendment to the California Public Resources and Revenue and Taxation Codes changed the way revenue was raised from OHV enthusiasts and gave some of it away to other interests.

The 2008 legislation gives OHV trust fund money in the form of  grants and cooperative agreements to off road access for non-OHV recreation. This change is a result of the 2006 survey which found that that some Californians drove their four wheel and two wheel drive vehicles off road to get to other non-OHV recreational activities like fishing and hunting.

The same legislation doubled OHV registration fees and gave away about half of the grants and cooperative agreements part of our OHV trust fund to non-OHV interests like law enforcement and restoration.

Off highway fuel tax funding was amended to reflect changes in OHV use over the years. For example, the number of unregistered off road vehicles had declined since the law was last amended and so the law was changed to take that into account. The statute was also revised to take into account changes that occur in the future.

In fact, if you look at the numbers, the difference in estimated fuel tax revenues for off highway vehicle use between the 1990 survey and the 2006 survey is mainly the result of decreased use of fuel used off road by unregistered vehicles.

What is ignored by our enemies is that gas tax collected as a result fuel consumed by unregistered vehicles (even if miscalculated) does not benefit off road recreation and was not used to purchase the Alameda/Tesla property; but is set aside in a special account to be used for only conservation, restoration and enforcement.

In addition, these people overlook the fact that off-highway vehicle recreation has been getting more and more popular over the last twenty years with more people purchasing fuel for off-highway vehicle recreation.  The idea that the Alameda/Tesla property was not bought with OHV fuel tax dollars is bogus. Also they conveniently ignore the fact that OHV registration fees (which were doubled in 2008) and OHV park use fees were a part of the fund used to purchase the property.

Even if (for the sake of argument) we hypothetically accept Friends of Tesla’s conclusion that the method used for calculating the amount of fuel used off road was in some way flawed; that premise does not lead to the conclusion that she and her minions own our park.

To wit: “It is misleading and inaccurate to state that OHV users paid for the Tesla Park land. The general recreation public paid for the vast majority of Tesla Park.”

And: “OHV users did not exclusively pay for Tesla Park – all recreation users that purchase gas in the State of California paid for the vast majority of Tesla Park.

Because Tesla Park is public state park land, it is important that we ask “what is the best public use for this historically and culturally significant, biologically diverse and unique and wonderfully scenic park land? The answer is unquestionably, not as expansion of Carnegie SVRA as an Off-Highway Vehicle park”.

This excerpt confuses our 8 California State OHV Parks (run by the Division of OHV Recreation) with the other 272 non-OHV California state parks (run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation). Saying that Tesla is public park land ignores fundamental differences.

The Alameda/Tesla property was purchased to expand Carnegie State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA), and was bought with OHV Trust Fund money (composed of registration fees, fuel tax revenue for fuel used off road and OHV park entrance fees). That money was appropriated by the legislature and given to California Department of Parks and Recreation to buy the Alameda/Tesla property for OHV use.  Tesla is not just any old public state park. It is an expansion of  Carnegie SVRA.

The Alamed/Tesla property was purchased over ten years ago and nobody disputes the fact that it was purchased to expand Carnegie SVRA.

Public Resources Code section 5090.02(b) provides as follows “The Legislature hereby declares that effectively managed areas and adequate facilities for the use of off-highway vehicles and conservation and enforcement are essential for ecologically balanced recreation.” and subsection (c)(1) describes the mission of the Department of OHV Recreation as follows: “Existing off-highway motor vehicle recreational areas, facilities, and opportunities should be expanded and managed in a manner consistent with this chapter, in particular to maintain sustained long-term use.

Banning OHV recreation at Tesla does not maintain sustained long-term use, nor is it consistent with providing adequate facilities for the use of off highway vehicles. Controlled OHV recreation is essential for the ecology of our resources as provided by statute.

The argument that “all recreation users that purchase gas in the State of California paid for the vast majority of Tesla Park”  is equally at odds with California law.

In California fuel taxes are generally collected at the refinery or terminal level and distributed to benefit the users of the fuel being taxed.

Fuel taxes do not go into the general fund like state income taxes and sales taxes. Instead, they go into the Aeronautics Account, Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, Department of Food and Agriculture Fund, Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund and what is left over is transferred into the Highway Users Tax Account. See Revenue and Taxation Section 8353.

Even if we could ignore the statutes passed by the legislature defining how fuel tax is calculated; any alleged miscalculation of OHV Trust Fund money transferred from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Account to the OHV trust fund belongs to the Highway Users Tax Account which gets everything that is left over after the other special funds have gotten their share of fuel tax money collected at the refinery level.

There is nothing in the Taxation and Revenue Code that gives fuel tax money to the “general recreation public”. In fact the segment of the general recreation public who do not use fuel for aircraft, watercraft, agricultural equipment or off highway vehicle recreation; uses fuel for traveling on paved streets and highways and their fuel tax dollars go into the Highway Users Tax Account.

The Highway Users Tax Account is used for building and maintaining streets and highways as well funding mass transit. See Article IX of the California Constitution.

If we accept Friend’s of Tesla’s  contention that the legislature mistakenly transferred extra fuel tax money to the OHV trust fund and this money was used for the purchase of the Alameda/Tesla expansion (fuel tax money unrelated to OHV use); then the logical conclusion is that any fuel tax unrelated to OHV use should have been deposited into the Highway Users Tax Account. Maybe the Friends of Tesla could build a freeway through the property. Or perhaps BART could be extended from Livermore to Tesla.

All this is besides the point because money transferred to the OHV trust fund was carefully calibrated to measure the portion of fuel used by off highway vehicles. It is money that we are entitled to use to expand our parks. In addition to fuel tax, the expansion was funded with registration fees ($50 per bike) and OHV park entrance fees. Friends of Tesla have no right to our park.

The law is the law. The legislature passed several amendments to legislation that authorizes the transfer of fuel tax money into the OHV Trust Fund. Some adopted slightly different ways of estimating  the amount of fuel used off road. They all used precise calculations based on specific enumerated factors and those calculations were always used to estimate the amount of fuel tax transferred to the OHV trust fund.

The statutes were passed by senate and assembly majorities and signed by the governor.

The law is the law whether or not you agree with it. If you don’t like the law you have to convince the legislature to change it before you can arbitrarily claim the money as your own.

The other California State Parks (the ones in trouble because of cuts in the state budget), in contrast to the California OHV Division which is entirely user funded, obtain their money from a variety of sources; the biggest portion coming from the General Fund. Other sources include the Public Resources Account in the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Surtax Fund; the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air and Coastal Protection Bond Fund; and the California Environmental License Plate Fund, among others.

Users of these other state parks do not pay to play but instead rely on other California taxpayers to fund their parks.

A a miniscule amount of their operating costs are collected as entrance fees at some of the other (non-OHV) state parks. As occasional users of these other state parks, OHV enthusiasts pay these fees like other California taxpayers.

In other words we all pay for other California state parks as California taxpayers. In fact if we take their argument to its ultimate conclusion; then as California taxpayers; we are entitled to use our off highway vehicles not just in our eight user-funded OHV state parks, but also in the other 272 non-OHV parks that we support with our tax dollars. In other words “not with our money you won’t” prevent us from using our 272 state parks for our preferred recreational activity (OHV recreation).

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One Response to OHV TRUST FUND OR “NOT WITH MY TAX MONEY YOU WON’T”

  1. Dave Duffin says:

    In the 1960’s I met a man who was named after his father. He ended up having a National Holiday named in his honor. Among other things he did his best to give equal rights to passengers who got on a bus, paid the fare, but HAD to sit in the back of the bus.

    OHV recreation users pay their “fare” too, yet are classed as sub-human by the intellectuals who arrogantly do all they can to keep us “In our place”. But don’t fret, THEY know what is best for us; NOW MOVE BACK THERE AND SIT DOWN.

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