Commentary: 22 years later, Arizonans may have another chance to vote for historic preservation

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Florence Reminder, 2/9/2012] – In 1990 the people of Arizona voted unanimously to approve an initiative to allocate $20 million from Arizona Lottery Funds to the Heritage Fund, with $10 million going to Arizona State Parks and $10 million going to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The initiative was very specific as to the use of the funds by both the State Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission.

The State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund was to be distributed as follows:

  • State Parks Acquisition and Development (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually;
  • State Parks Natural Areas Acquisition (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually;
  • State Parks Natural Areas Operation and Management (4%): Up to $400,000 annually;
  • Environmental Education (5%): Up to $500,000 annually;
  • Trails (5%): Up to $500,000 annually (Grants);
  • Local, Regional and State Parks (35%): Up to $3.5 million annually (Grants);
  • Historic Preservation (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually (Grants).

Although the initiative contained the following statements “All monies in the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund shall be spent by the Arizona State Parks Board only for the purposes and in the percentages set forth in this article” and “in no event shall any monies in the fund revert to the state general fund,” in February 2009 the State Parks Board canceled or suspended all Heritage Fund grants that were 1 to 90 percent complete. At that time the Legislature stopped providing funding for Arizona State Parks. Then in 2010, the Legislature not only canceled funding the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund, they also removed the language from the Arizona Revised Statutes that allocated these funds to Arizona State Parks.

The Legislature continued to fund the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s portion of the Heritage Fund.

In spite of the Arizona Heritage Alliance having been formed for the purpose of attempting to prevent the Legislature from sweeping the Heritage Fund, the Legislature succeeded anyway. Since 2009 the Heritage Alliance members have worked diligently attempting to reinstate the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund, this time to include language in the initiative that would really protect the monies from being taken by either State Parks or the Legislature.

Ballot initiative: Representative Russ Jones has introduced a Bill (HCR 2047) that, if approved, would once again put an initiative on the ballot for the people of Arizona to make the decision whether or not they wanted a portion of the lottery funds to go toward Conservation and Preservation by means of the Heritage Fund. HCR 2047 is cosponsored by seventeen additional representatives, one being Rep. Frank Pratt from District 23.

At the request of Arizona State Parks and the Heritage Alliance, Northern Arizona University prepared data showing the economic impact one year of the Heritage Fund had on the state of Arizona.

“Total direct expenditures from the Heritage Fund in 2007 were $12,895,267 spent on both land acquisition and construction related to maintenance and repair. The direct program expenditures resulted in indirect expenditures of $4.6 million and induced expenditures of $8.5 million for a total economic impact of $26.1 million. Direct expenditures resulted in 125 direct jobs, 33 indirect jobs and 66 induced jobs, for a total of 224 jobs from ASP Heritage Funds. Estimated total taxes for these expenditures (state, local and federal) were $3.3 million.”

The Arizona Heritage Alliance President Elizabeth Woodin said, “This very productive fund administered by Arizona State Parks created hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the ground each year particularly in the rural areas. Those projects made life more pleasant and attracted more business and tourism. If the Legislature will not restore it outright, the least that can be done is to allow the voters to decide if they still want it. That is the fair and right thing to do.”

From 1991 through 2006 Florence received 18 Historic Preservation Heritage Fund Grants totaling $1,541,233, Casa Grande received 8 grants totaling $395,573, and Coolidge received 4 grants totaling $340,841. If the Heritage Fund can be reinstated, this funding source will again be available for not only Pinal County cities and towns, but for cities and towns all over the state to again rehabilitate their historic properties.

HCR 2047 is scheduled to be heard by three Committees. First is Agriculture and Water which is chaired by Representative Jones. This committee will hear it on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9 a.m. It is currently scheduled to be heard by two more committees on yet to be determined dates.

Please contact your representatives and encourage them to support HCR 2047 which would give the citizens of Arizona the opportunity to again vote to reinstate the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund.