Hang on to your wallet!
The Washington state Legislature is working overtime.
They plan to require the public to get a permit to be on state land. This is not a new idea.
The National Park Service began charging the public to enter their parks years ago.
At first there was a problem. The fee station at Olympic National Park's Mora campground near Forks was burned down but the rest of us just shut up and paid up.
The National Park Service is always short on cash. They can't maintain the historic roads, trails, shelters and campgrounds that generations of Americans had assumed was a birthright. And now that the Elwha dams and the lakes behind them are being destroyed for the return of the mythical 100-pound salmon, the Park will need even more money.
The Park Service plans to celebrate the dam removal with a really big party inviting the President Obama and “A list” of celebrities like Jon Bon Jovi, who is already reportedly not coming. He was big in the '80s, but even has-been rock stars don't work cheap. Bon Jovi's hair spray bill alone could bankrupt a Third World nation.
Once the Park Service started charging money it was only a matter of time before the Forest Service got into the act with a permit of their own.
Not wanting to be left out of the revenue stream the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began charging money for a permit to park at their boat ramps. Part of the money was used to maintain the luxurious outhouses this journalist made a career writing about.
A really desperate tourist once asked: “I really need a permit to go to the bathroom in Washington?”
“Depends,” was all I could say.
There still ain't no law against baiting tourists.
Now the state wants to charge people for a permit to go on state land. This is an idea whose time has come but of course there are some problems.
The state has shut down so many of the roads that go into state land that you could have a hard time finding any.
The state boundaries are so poorly marked you might never really know if you are on state land until you get a ticket for being there without a permit. Or you could have the wrong permit.
Let's say you're going camping up the Dungeness River. You'll need a state permit to make a bathroom stop. Then you'll need a Forest Service permit to park and have your car robbed at the trailhead and maybe a Park Service back-country use permit to walk up the trail and camp.
Unfortunately all these permits might not produce the billions required to keep this ship of state from sinking.
Does this mean we just give up trying to tax our way out of a financial meltdown?
It's time for a more creative permitting process. If we are going to charge the public for a permit to drive or walk on public land, is it fair that we let others use our cities crumbling infrastructure for free?
I think it's time for the state to require a permit for people who walk on the sidewalk. Literally, millions of these pedestrians walk on sidewalks every day without contributing their fair share to society.
With the increasing price of gas, people are forced to walk on sidewalks. A state pedestrian permit could offset decreasing revenues from the state gas tax.
These free-loading pedestrians clogging our worn-out sidewalks have had a free ride for too long. The state should require a pedestrian permit.
We'll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.