CA legislature pushing bill to help fund fairs across state

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State leaders say it could generate about $15 million to the network of fairs throughout California. And local fair organizers say it's a win because they can generate more money for each area. (KFSN)

A state assembly bill aimed at helping fairground funding throughout the state is moving forward. The bill would help state fairs make repairs while bringing in more entertainment and revenue.

Fair rides, fried foods, and furry friends are all things people will see at the Merced County Fair. But it's not all fun and games, and keeping these activities going costs money.

Fair managers say they haven't been getting much help from the state over the last few years.

"Those monies are so important to fairs so that we can continue to exist," Merced County Fair CEO Teresa Burrola said.

A State Assembly bill aims to fix that problem. Assemblyman Adam Gray authored a bill that would make a percentage of the state sales tax dollar spent on fairgrounds.

He says it could generate about $15 million to a network of fairs throughout California.

"We have restored funding to many programs at the state level, and the fact that we've never restored funding to the fairs is just wrong," he said. "It's time we do something about it."

Burrola says they used to get about $130,000 a year from the state, but after budget cuts in the early 2000s, they now only get a little more than $30,000.

She says that's led to about a 40 percent cut in her workforce and old infrastructure is in big need of improvement.

"We need air conditioning to be replaced, patch work on asphalt, a new roof," she said.

Gray says the bill was passed unanimously by the assembly and that it aims to help with repair costs while promoting more entertainment.

"The more activities and the more spending you generate, the more money you will receive," he explained.

Merced City officials say in 2015, the fairgrounds generated for the $23 million in spending activity alone, making it a huge economic generator for the area.

"As people do the exhibits, they buy feed, they have to transport it," said Frank Quintero, Merced Economic Development Director. "So, there's a ripple benefit of fairs within our community."

County Fair officials say they're ready to open their doors on Wednesday, bringing new features to the fair while on a budget. In the meantime, the bill now moves to the CA Senate for consideration.
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