End To State Aid Crippling, Say California’s Network of Fairs

One of the victims of the $11.2 billion in state spending cuts signed by Gov. Jerry Brown is the state’s network of fairs that will no longer receive $32 million in subsidies.

Restoration of that money is on a list of actions Republicans want Brown to take before they agree to have two of their members in each house vote to place a five-year extension of set-to-expire taxes on the ballot.

Supporters of the state subsidy say it is needed to maintain the network of 52 agricultural associations, 23 county fairs, two citrus fairs and the State Fair at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

“We anticipate the state’s direct return on its investment in fairs to top $150 million in 2011 plus the added benefit of more than 30,000 full-time job equivalents,” said Stephen Chambers of the California Fairs Alliance in a February 10 press release that listed 29 fairs  “most at-risk” of temporary or permanent closure in 2012 should state money end.

Others say that in a state budget where health care availability for the poor and in-home care for seniors is curtailed, state universities cut by $1 billion, $32 million for fairs seems a low priority.

The 78-fair network generated $127 million in state and local tax revenue in 2009, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Spending by fair-goers was $2.85 billion.

Originally, fairs received a subsidy from horse racing license fees. But as that industry contracted, the license fee revenue for fairs fell from $91 million during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1998 to $36 million 10 years later.

A 2009 bill aimed at aiding the horseracing industry shifted the subsidy to the state’s general fund.

Overall, the state’s contribution is a small amount of total fair spending. State checks to fairs range from $25,000 to $200,0000, depending on the size of the fair.

Only $15.5 million of the $32 million actually supplements the budget of fairs – the rest is used for other purposes, such as infrastructure and administrative oversight.

The bigger the impact of state money, the smaller the fair. Major fairs like Orange County receive no state aid.

San Joaquin Fair receives $250,000 from the state, the Legislative Analyst pointed out at a February 10 budget subcommittee hearing. The $250,000 represents 9 percent of its total revenue of $2.9 million. But the $213,000 The Valley Fair gets from the state is 50 percent of its $424,000 budget.

The San Bernardino County fiar in Victorville will lose $225,000 from the state — roughly 5 percent of it’s operating cost. Humboldt County, on the fair association’s at-risk list will lose $184,000 about 10 percent of its budget.

The Western Fairs Association, of which the California Fair Alliance is a part, includes on its at-risk list a number of rural fairs including county fairs in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Monterey, Placer, Plumas-Sierra and Sacramento.

Criteria for being at-risk are mainly receiving 20 percent or more of operating revenue from the state.

“This list is not meant to suggest that the remaining 49 fairs are not also ‘at-risk’ as a result of the elimination of state funding. Fairs that had a difficult 2010 season and/or other factors could easily be added to the most at-risk list,” the  fair association said in releasing its list.

Fairs operate on a calendar year so now impact will be felt from the fund loss in 2011.

The complete Most At-Risk List of the Western Fair Alliance




Filed under: Budget and Economy


  1. Perhaps, if Sen Gaines and other Members of the State Senate work diligently to close the remaining State Budget Gap by supporting the extension of revenues, he and the others will be in a better position to argue for restoration of funding for County Fairs, etc. If not, rack \’em up alongside all the other draconian cuts. Oh well.

    Comment by baxter culver — 4.01.2011 @ 7:32 pm

  2. This is about the only instance in the entire Budget debate that one could say Republicans are being fair minded.

    Comment by Let It Bleed — 4.03.2011 @ 9:50 am

  3. All: Given what we’re up against, it seems like the fair thing to do.

    Comment by C. Norby — 4.04.2011 @ 2:14 pm

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