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Keeping Boat Registration Fees Real in California

RBOC board of directors at the California state capitol.

RBOC board of directors at the California state capitol.

A coalition of boating groups, led by Recreational Boaters of California and Boat Owners Association of The United States, successfully eliminated a proposed 250-percent recreational vessel registration fee increase from the state’s budget.

The groups intend to develop more equitable funding for the state’s boating safety, infrastructure, environmental and law-enforcement programs. The measure was supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“This is the right decision for boaters,” RBOC president Winston Bumpus said in a statement. “The further we look into the many different pots where boater-generated fuel-tax dollars are placed, the more questions boaters have identified about the fairness of a registration fee increase.”

Bumpus noted that California boaters pay $107 million each year in fuel taxes to the state, yet only $15 million — 14 percent — is allocated to the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund for programs and services such as boater education and operator certification, safety and enforcement, boating facilities, removal of abandoned and derelict vessels and efforts to combat aquatic invasive species.

As recently as 2019, the state’s HWRF teetered on insolvency.

“This is a great demonstration of the benefits of boaters engaging on issues that matter to their boating. Working with RBOC, more than 4,000 messages were sent by BoatUS members to the legislature and governor. It's clear their voices were heard,” said BoatUS manager of government affairs David Kennedy.

RBOC, BoatUS and others are expected to participate in a public process with California Division of Boating and Waterways to explore long-term solutions to the HWRF funding shortfalls.

“Boat registration fees will be part of that conversation, together with efficiencies and improvements to existing programs and revisions to better serve the boating public,” added Bumpus.

Click here for the list of coalition members. 

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