[Source: Arizona Republic editorial board] — A ballot measure to save our state parks has stalled in the Legislature. The park system is on the verge of financial collapse. The system is so cash-strapped that iconic places are closing, from Tombstone Courthouse to Picacho Peak. How smart is that for a state that relies on tourism? It doesn’t have to happen.
HCR 2040 would let voters decide whether to create a steady source of funding by raising vehicle-registration fees by $9 a year. (An additional $3 would pay for rest areas and be used for other transportation purposes.) In return, Arizona-registered vehicles would get free entry to all state parks. And private enterprises would still have ample opportunity to develop and operate marinas, campgrounds and other services.
States like Montana and Washington have already adopted this common-sense system. The proposal passed out of the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee. But it’s inexplicably stuck in Appropriations. If Chairman John Kavanagh won’t put it on the agenda, he should let it move along to a floor vote. Voters should get a chance to ensure the future of our parks.
Gov. Jan Brewer and lawmakers should avoid unnecessary damage in the short term. They’re considering a budget proposal that would create an immediate crisis, draining what little money remains for the parks to run on. This defies logic. State leaders talk a lot about making Arizona more competitive. Our parks are unique recreational and economic assets, especially for the rural communities. Let’s capitalize on those strengths.