Voluntary fee for Arizona state parks off ballot

[Source: Jim Cross, KTAR] –Arizonans will not get the chance to vote on a voluntary fee to fund the state’s parks. The campaign to put the issue on the ballot ran out of money to hire paid circulators and fell short of the number of signatures needed.

The initiative would have asked voters to approve a $14 surcharge, added to the cost of each vehicle registration fee. That surcharge would have been voluntary and drivers would have to opt out by checking a box on the renewal form to avoid paying for it.

Christie Statler with the Arizona State Parks Foundation said Arizona’s parks are not in immediate jeopardy, but if the state raids the parks budget in the future, they will be. “This park system is a house of cards and could fold,” she said.

Lawmakers have refused to provide tax dollars to support the park system and took some of the money parks raised from admissions to help balance the budget in recent years.

A 2009 task force’s report to the governor said the parks system is threatened with extinction and cannot survive under a roller-coaster funding system. Statler said it was true then and and it is true now. “We have watched legislative sweeps that have reduced the ability of the park system to function,” she said. “All it would take is another sweep of funds to reduce the park system entirely. They’re operating on dental floss.” ┬áStatler said the state parks system pumps about $250 million into the Arizona economy each year.