A Call to Arms to Save Cal Boating

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The seas are getting rough again for the California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) because the governor is eyeing the department’s funding as free money.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson first tried during his term to eliminate the department, and then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried it, and both men had the goal of raiding the department’s dedicated funds.  What most boaters do not realize is that Cal Boating is a self-sustaining state agency that is directly paid for by the users (boaters), and I find it very disturbing that now this governor wants to eliminate Cal Boating only to get his hands on the non-general fund, dedicated money.

Cal Boating receives its primary funding directly from a boating fuel tax, and additionally from registration fees, and interest payments on infrastructure loans.  The money is supposed to be returned to boating projects and for infrastructure that helps to provide billions of dollars a year to California’s gross state product.  So, the short-sightedness of governor can negatively affect our boating infrastructure, on-the-water law enforcement, and boater education.

His plan is to make Cal Boating a division of the Parks and Recreation Department.  Seems like a good idea to decrease the size of government, but it is simply sleight-of-hand to allow Parks and Rec to spend the boaters’ taxes and fees on non-boating-related expenditures, while cutting back on loans for infrastructure, such as launch ramps and marinas, and on spending for boater education.

The Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) has issued an urgent call to arms to save the department.  Jerry Desmond Jr., RBOCs director of government affairs, personally delivered 1,227 letters to the State Capitol on Feb. 9.  These letters were addressed to Gov. Jerry Brown and written by boaters, clubs, cities and businesses, and they urged the Governor to not eliminate the Department of Boating and Waterways.

Additionally, the letters were submitted to Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, Assembly Speaker John Perez, and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

It will affect Newport Harbor if Cal Boating’s proposed $69 million dollar budget is siphoned away from its intended boating related uses.  I know that it can be difficult and time consuming for the average boater to stay abreast of how Sacramento is attacking America’s No. 1 family recreational activity, but you can stay up to date by going to RBOC.org.

Boaters and others can help by sending a letter to Gov. Brown, and I have listed below a sample letter from the Recreational Boaters of California:

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Governor

State of California

State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 95814


Governor Brown:

I strongly oppose your proposal to eliminate the Department of Boating and Waterways [Cal Boating] and re-constitute the department as a division within the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Eliminating Cal Boating has already been soundly rejected four times, when it was proposed by Governor Pete Wilson in 1992 and 1996, and it was proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 and 2009. The reasons Cal Boating must continue remain just as vital today:

Cal Boating provides accountability, transparency and leadership regarding the collection and use of boater-derived taxes and fees, and the best use of these funds for programs that benefit boating.

Eliminating Cal Boating would not save a single General Fund dollar. The department is funded by boater fuel tax dollars, registration fees, and interest payments on infrastructure loans. Eliminating the department would not help resolve the current budget crisis.

Cal Boating creates jobs through loans and grants of boater funds for boating infrastructure throughout the state that ensures boater access to waterways.

This state’s more than 3 million boating enthusiasts must have a department with a Director whose primary focus is boating. Cal Boating has a compact organizational structure and administers boating programs in a timely and non-bureaucratic manner. Its statutory charter is directly boating‐related.

While I understand the importance of finding savings during these difficult times, eliminating Cal Boating would not help resolve the state’s fiscal problems, and would jeopardize programs and services which the boating community has determined to be essential and is willing to finance.

I urge you to withdraw your proposal to eliminate the Department of Boating and Waterways [Cal Boating].


(Your Name Here)

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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