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Would $5 parks money be a fee or donation? AG says donation

Post by News Tribune Staff on March 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm with No Comments »
March 31, 2009 12:17 pm

You’ll probably see me refer to it as a “voluntary fee,” despite the opinion offered up by the Attorney General’s Office.

Today, vehicle owners have the option to donate $5 or more to parks ($5 is the minimum) when they renew their license tabs each year. You have to make a conscious decision to give that money by checking a box and writing in the amount.

That’s called an “opt in” method. The state raised $700,000 with that method last year.

There is talk in the Legislature of changing that to an “opt out” method, in which the state automatically will take $5 from you unless you indicate you don’t want to give $5 to state parks. Estimates vary, but the state may be able to raise $23 million to $28 million using that method. (The $23 million figure assumes 40 percent of people will contribute and 60 percent won’t.)

Still, I have a hard time calling it a “donation” when it will be collected automatically if you don’t notice the box on the form and therefore don’t check it to say “I don’t want to.”

Here is an informalopinion from the Attorney General’s Office.

As for parks, the Senate budget assumes no state parks will be closed if the fee is collected. The House budget assumes parks will stay open in summer and fall, but closed in winter (as many of them do anyway).

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