Growing up in Michigan, I'm sure most people can remember going to the park for a picnic or just to play on a warm day. However, that tradition has been placed in jeopardy due to lack of funding. According to Rebecca Humphries, the Department of Natural Resources Director, the lack of funding (due to the cuts in the state budget) is resulting in the closure of state forest campgrounds, which will soon be followed by some parks in 2010. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the Citizens' Committee for Michigan State Parks has proposed that each license plate purchase in the state of Michigan be accompanied by an additional "optional" $10 fee, which would act in lieu of a yearly pass to use state parks.
The Citizens Committee for Michigan State Parks cites in its introductory letter that state parks have not received any tax dollars since 2004 and this fee would provide much needed funding to their entire state forest recreation system, including facilities and preservation. Other organizations, like The Muskegon Sports Council, assert that the time gained from manning the parking permit booth can now be put toward improvements in their state park's Winter Sports Complex.
While Michigan Secretary of State, Terri Land, fully supports preserving Michigan's state parks, she is in opposition to the $10 tax for political reasons. Doug Novak, Director of Government Affairs, objects to the "opt out" part of the Bill, which suggests the fee be imposed on every driver unless they read the fine print and choose not to pay it. Unlike other "fundraising fees" generated by license plate purchases, this one wouldn't be termed a "donation". Additionally, Novak points out that the extra time and energy that park officials would gain from the bill will be replaced with the time and energy it would take state administrative employees to respond to a great many extra phone calls concerning specifics of the Bill and what it allows. Other problems include the timeline outlined in the Bill and the violation of Article 9 Section 9 of the constitution, which states that, unless it is a "use tax or regulatory fee," all taxes on motor vehicles must be used for transportation purposes.".
While the methods are still controversial, individuals on both sides of the issue recognize the need to generate funds for Michigan's state parks. In his testimony, Novak suggests several alternatives to the "Recreation Passport" proposal, including: selling passes/tickets at self-service stations, advertising in registration renewals, selling passes/tickets online, and selling a purely voluntary (as opposed to "opt out") Parks Fundraising Plate.
Testimony from Muskegon Sports Council and Doug Novak at the House Committee on Great Lakes