Lottery vital for Arizona’s financial plan; will voters keep it?

[Source: Alexander MacLean, Cronkite News Service] — While other contributors to state revenues have dropped off severely of late, the Arizona Lottery has been a growing source of tens of millions of dollars per year since its inception in 1980.  The lottery funds a variety of voter-approved state programs in areas such as education, health and transportation and has contributed $2.3 billion in all to its beneficiaries.

Its revenue has been so reliable that one proposal for plugging the gaping hole in the state budget involves borrowing against lottery proceeds.  Called lottery securitization, that plan calls for the state to take out a loan and pay it back with annual lottery profits transferred into the state’s general fund.  But while the lottery’s revenue and growth have been certainties, its future isn’t assured.  By law, the lottery must be reauthorized periodically, and the current authorization is scheduled to expire July 1, 2012. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Santa Cruz County soccer field grant to go unfunded

[Source: Kathleen Vandervoet, Santa Cruz Valley Sun] — An $85,503 Arizona Heritage Fund grant award announced nearly a year ago to add a soccer field, bleachers and shade structures to Robert Damon Park in Rio Rico was cancelled by Arizona State Parks.  All grants on which work had not started were cancelled in February by the State Parks board as a result of budget reductions by the Legislature.

On Sept. 22, some statewide Heritage Fund grants that had been suspended in February were reinstated, said Mary Dahl, Santa Cruz County Community Development Director.  She said the Joint Legislative Budget Committee reviewed a proposal by Arizona State Parks and gave a favorable response to re-instating suspended grants.  But grants that were cancelled in February, including the one for the Damon Park, did not get funded.

In Rio Rico, the grant’s purpose was to help pay for a soccer field at the 22-acre public park where there are two baseball fields.  Damon Park is west of Interstate 19 and south of Yavapai Drive.  The money was also to be used to build bleachers and add shade structures over the existing playground equipment, Dahl said.  Dahl wrote to Gov. Jan Brewer in late February to no avail.  In the letter, Dahl said a groundbreaking ceremony was held last December and recognition was given to the late Ramon Inzunza, a resident who passed away before realizing his dream of having a public soccer field in Rio Rico.

The total cost for the project was estimated at $171,006 and the county’s matching portion was to be $76,003.  Others who planned to contribute about $9,500 were: Rio Rico Properties Inc., Rio Rico Utilities, Rio Rico Rotary Club, Farmer’s Insurance, Linda and Walter Lewis, Backflow Technologies, and Joe and Lori Adamson.

State Parks system needs funds to prevent collapse

[Source: Tammy Gray-Searles, AzJournal.com, 11-27-2009]  —  “It is our judgment that the state parks system is in imminent danger of complete collapse as a result of financial starvation during most of this decade,” wrote the members of the state task force on sustainable parks funding in their Oct. 30 report to the governor.  The task force was asked to find ways to keep Arizona state parks open.  In the report, the group recommended implementing a $14 to $15 fee to vehicle registrations that would be dedicated solely to state parks, ensuring enough funds for both, maintenance and operations, as well as infrastructure and capital improvements.

“…our chief recommendation is that the state should implement a Sustainable State Parks Fund, which would be financed by a $14 to $15 annual contribution to be collected from owners of non-commercial vehicles as a part of the vehicle registration process,” the recommendation notes.  “The proceeds would be dedicated to the operation, maintenance and capital needs of state parks.  In return, private vehicles bearing Arizona license plates would be admitted free to state parks.  The enactment should include a provision to allow individual license holders to opt out of paying the surcharge, so it would not burden those who are least able to afford higher expenses.”

According to the task force report, as well as a separate report prepared by the Morrison Institute, without a drastic change in funding, all of Arizona’s parks are in danger of being shut down.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

State parks need funding solution or they will die

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial, 11-18-2009] – Our state park system is withering and dying. That isn’t a hysterical overstatement. It’s a simple statement of fact. Gov. Jan Brewer’s Task Force on Sustainable State Parks examined this diverse collection of special places in Arizona, ranging from the splendors of Kartchner Caverns to the beaches of Lake Havasu. The conclusion: The system is “in imminent danger of complete collapse as a result of financial starvation during most of this decade.”

The state is not putting any money from the General Fund into Arizona State Parks. And it’s diverting other money that should go into the 30 parks, including revenue they generate. Capital needs have been shamefully neglected for years. Historic buildings, such as the Douglas Mansion in Jerome, are crumbling. Water systems are disintegrating. Docks are falling apart. There isn’t enough operating money. Some parks are shuttered, and others have reduced their hours. Arizona is in danger of becoming the only state in the union without a state parks system [to read the full editorial click here].