California to close up to 70 parks to save money
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California will close up to 70 of its 278 parks to help narrow its budget gap, officials said on Friday just a few days before Governor Jerry Brown unveils a revised plan to close a roughly $15 billion deficit.
The closures will save the government of the most populous U.S. state $33 million.
Among the sites slated to be shut is the restored Governor's Mansion in the state capital of Sacramento.
"These cuts are unfortunate, but the state's current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made," state Resources Secretary John Laird said in a statement.
Laird also took a shot at Republican lawmakers who have stalled Democrat Brown's plan for extending tax increases that expire by summer.
"Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks," Laird, a former Democratic lawmaker, said.
Brown had wanted the legislature to forward a tax measure to voters for a special election in June but Republicans held firm against his plan.
He still wants a statewide vote on tax extensions, a plan central to his campaign for governor last year, but some Democratic lawmakers have suggested the legislature approve extensions on its own.
Brown will present a revised budget plan on Monday, potentially providing a signal on whether or not he will press his call for a tax referendum later in the year. The Assembly's Republican leader released a rival plan on Thursday, maintaining opposition to tax extensions and proposing that improving revenue go to education and public safety spending.
As California's leaders reengage in budget talks, parks officials will aim to keep the state's most significant natural and cultural sites open and retain 92 percent of the state park system's attendance and 94 percent of its revenue.
The state park system will also seek to notch new partnerships to keep as many of its parks open as possible, said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks.
"We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners -- cities, counties and non-profits -- to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template," Coleman said.
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