Proposed budget adjustments that are on the table at the special session of the State Legislature will cut more than $9 million of Parks funds, leaving the agency with only about $10 million in its 2010 budget.
That's less than 30 percent of the agency's normal funding and not enough to continue park operations beyond this fiscal year.
Governor Brewer and the Legislature are seeking $205 million in cuts to mitigate a deficit estimated to be $1.5 billion. The proposed cuts to State Parks would provide just 4 percent of their goal, while shutting down the Park's annual contribution to the Arizona economy of more than $266 million.
This result also negates 10 months of work by the Governor's Task Force on Sustainable State Parks, which recommended in October that State Parks be funded with a fee on Arizona license plate renewals in exchange for free entry to the parks.
The cuts will force major reductions in Parks staff and closure of more than half of the State's 30 parks this fiscal year. The resulting loss of Park revenue is projected to leave the Parks System with no money to start the next fiscal year, July 1, 2010. The next step will be to shut down the entire system and dispose of Parks properties, returning most of them to their original owners.
If Legislatures could keep parks open to Arizonans through 50 years of prior downturns, wars, gas crises and political turmoil, surely current lawmakers can find the revenues to do so--especially given the great economic value, popularity and intrinsic worth of our state parks.
The full Senate must consider this bill, then it moves to the House (HB2001).
For more information, visit arizonastateparksfoundation.org.