Friday, March 13, 2009

State's Budget Problems Continue

While the Governor would have us believe that our budget problems are now solved and he has rounded up sufficient funds to allow proceeding with closing huge areas of the ocean to fishing - NOTHING could be further from the truth! The Sacramento Bee reports today that the package of spending cuts, new taxes and loans to close the $40 billion gap adopted recently will still fall short by $8 billion. This was reported by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, the Legislature's budget expert.
The Governor will submit what is called a "May revise" in state budget speak. This is an update of the situation following the opening of state tax returns due in mid-April. According to today's report it will show at least $8 billion more in general funds that need to be cut or taxed. We'll see how the Legislature and the Governor respond to this news with regard to adopting more MPAs and dumping a huge unfunded mandate on the Department of Fish & Game.
Although the numbers are a bit elusive, DFG reported recently to the Commission that costs to carry out the MLPA, after an expansive network of MPAs are adopted statewide, far outstrips any reasonable estimate of funding available for monitoring, adaptive management, or enforcement. Various reports reflect a start up enforcement cost for the first two phases of $27 million, with annual ongoing enforcement costing between $17-27 million annually statewide.
Monitoring cost are equally dire - estimated $13-15 million annually for the two central California regions and up to $20-40 million once the entire state is bathed in MPAs. And a final piece of cost, Outreach (public relation) is estimated at $1 million annually. This last one might be easy since they are likely spending that much currently telling us all how good MPAs will be.
The administration tells us and the Fish & Game Commission members not to worry, they have enough money to complete the designation (or lock down) process and when additional funds are need for everything else they'll get it from others via a public-private partnership. The trouble is those private partners don't much like fishing.
Hopefully a majority of the Fish & Game Commission will be responsible enough not to adopt this gigantic unfunded mandate. Its obviously time to look for a few alternatives to ensure good conservation of the ocean that are actually affordable.

-Vern Goehring, California Fisheries Coalition Manager

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