Analysis by Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, The Sierra Fund
Earlier this month Governor Schwarzenegger submitted his revised budget proposal to the California legislature, proposing some important changes to his earlier budget, including:
Restores funding of State Parks: The “May Revise” budget re-instated funding for 43 state parks earlier slotted for closure, including several in the Sierra Nevada. The Administration proposes to fund the majority of this proposal with General Fund monies, as well as a proposed Park Entrance Fee.
Retains $30 million for CALFED Science Program: The Governor did not take the advice of the Legislative Analyst’s Office to cut funding for research into water quality issues, which include mercury contamination. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Natural Resources notes that decision makers trying to address threats to the delta, including “legacy contamination such as methylmercury pollution from centuries-old gold mining practices” need solid scientific research to guide their decisions.
Withdraws augmentation of CalFire Climate Change program: The revised budget withdraws the Governor’s earlier proposal to augment by $4.4 million the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection program to evaluate climate change impacts on forests and to begin implementation of strategies such as tree planting and fuel reduction projects.
Retains funding for suction dredging regulation: The revised budget retains the proposal to direct $1 million from the General Fund to conduct an environmental impact review of the Suction Dredge Program. This proposal has already been acted on by both the Assembly and Senate Budget subcommittees, who have added provisions to this item requiring that there be a moratorium on giving out suction dredge permits by the Department of Fish and Game until the court-ordered environmental review is complete.
Reinstates Fish and Game Warden funding: The revised budget restores funding for 38 game warden positions that had been proposed for elimination in the earlier budget.
Cleanup of Empire State Historic Park: The revised budget includes $5.1 million from the General Fund for continued remediation and treatment activities at the Empire Mine State Historic Park. These funds are being used to address arsenic, mercury, and other materials left over from gold mining activities from the last century.
Tahoe Conservancy: The revised budget includes $1.233 million more in funds for river and watershed restoration and soil erosion control activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin, as part of the Environmental Improvement Program.
Sierra Nevada Conservancy: No change was made in the revised budget to the proposed budget for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, which included $4.7 million for staff and program, and another $17 million for grant programs from “Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Fund of 2006” (Proposition 84) funds. The Conservancy’s total allocation of $21.7 million is a slight increase over the 2007/08 budget approved last year.