As I said, I have to rely on other sets of eyes to figure out what’s going on down here in the Legislature, and one of those sets belongs to Jim King.
King pays close attention to the parts of the budget that affect state parks and recreation, so I’ll defer to his analysis right now, and until I have a chance to more closely examine that part of the budget myself.
What follows is what I have just sent to the grassroots supporters of our State Parks and outdoor recreation programs. Wanted to share my thoughts with ya’ll. I’ll be swallowing hard and trying to help make the opt-out car tabs work. The context in the Senate makes that a little bit easier- a bit of sugar with the medicine.
I’m going to be away from the laptop for Senate Ways and Means, but will otherwise be available if needed.
Yesterday, when the Senate proposed operating budget was released, there was cause for elation. The release of the House proposed operating budget today was a more sobering event.
Both Senate and House will claim that their budgets keep all parks open. The definition of “open” is important, as are all of the many other considerations that must be weighed in evaluating a budget.
The Senate budget provides for a 5.8% increase in funding for State Parks, if all revenues materialize. All state parks are kept open, on the same basis as they are today. Equipment needs are funded. The costs of operating completed construction projects are funded. This is based upon an anticipated revenue of $28 million from the opt-out car tabs, but lead senators on the budget have indicated a strong commitment to keeping parks open even if this revenue fails to fully materialize in the coming months.
The House budget provides for a 3.4% decrease in funding for State Parks, and cuts general fund support by over 40% ($40,268,000) compared to trhe 28% cut in the Senate budget ($28,394,000). While it is claimed that the House budget keeps all parks open, the House still requires seasonal closures of parks, does not fund equipment needs, and mandates cuts in staffing. The House also relies on $28 million from opt-out car tabs.
In addition, the House budget moves $3 million from the Parkland Acquisition Account (these are funds from the sale of park-owned lands that are supposed to be used for purchase of replacement lands), $9.8 million from the Recreation Resource Account (these are funds from the boaters’ unrefunded gas taxes), and $9.6 million from the NOVA Program Account (these are funds from trail-users gas taxes and ORV permits) into the state general fund for use on non-recreation programs. In addition to those funds, $6.8 million from the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account and $2 million from the Wildlife Fund are also moved into the general fund.
These fund transfers will have a very negative impact on recreation.
It would appear that the Senate has done a much better job of taking care of our State Parks and outdoor recreation programs. In addition to the above- and of great interest to boaters- the Senate also fully funded the boaters’ number one priority- 2SSB 5691 (improving boating programs).
The legislative hotline is 1-800-562-6000. It is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday through Friday, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. It is time to call and thank your senators, and urge your representatives and Governor Gregoire to “please support the Senate budget chair’s position on State Parks, boating, trails, and outdoor recreation.”
It is vitally important that the hotline calls start immediately.
Citizens for Parks and Recreation
James L. King, Jr., Coordinator