Action Alert! Legislature prepares to decimate Arizona State Parks

[Source: Arizona Preservation Foundation] — The cuts proposed in House Bill 2001 of the 5th Special Session are catastrophic to Arizona State Parks. Fund Reductions and Transfers totaling $3,151,100, coupled with Fund sweeps of $6,088,700 will eliminate the agency’s ability to operate.  The Legislature seeks $205 million in cuts to begin to address a deficit currently estimated at $1.5 billion.  The proposed cuts to State Parks would equate to 5% of their solution, while State Parks currently receives less than 1/10 of 1% of the overall state budget.  Additionally, State Parks receives NO money from the state General Fund, but the impact of the park system on the state economy is more than $266 million.

The proposed cuts would force significant reductions in staff, thereby forcing a closure of much of the park system this fiscal year.  Without the revenues that the open parks generate, the agency will be forced to dispose of much of the property that it currently manages.

Some of the most problematic cuts include:

  • $2,302,100 in reductions and sweeps to the Enhancement Fund, the agency’s principal operating budget, will force reductions of approximately 75 staff and the closure of more than a half of the parks.  The resulting loss in revenue will result in a zero balance to begin the next fiscal year (July 2010).
  • $1,915,800 in reductions and sweeps to the State Lake Improvement Fund is more than the projected ending cash balance available.  These cuts would make it impossible to operate the parks along the Colorado River.
  • $3,909,400 in reductions and sweeps to the Arizona Heritage Fund will imperil funding for critical State Parks capital projects (including a water line for fire suppression at Lake Havasu State Park and the extension of Benson water line necessary for the long-term health of Kartchner Caverns), and grants currently under contract.

Please contact your legislator to express your opinion.  To locate your legislator, visit: http://azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp

For more information about your Arizona State Parks, visit: http://azstateparks.com/

PDF of this Action Alert here: http://www.box.net/shared/mlqbgbrvsq

Budget cuts could hobble Arizona state parks system

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl and Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Proposed budget cuts to state parks could shut down the entire system by July 1, the agency’s director told lawmakers Thursday.  The dire scenario was the darkest to emerge from the cuts lawmakers are considering as they meet in a special session to take another whack at reducing the state’s $1.6 billion deficit.

The cuts are part of a proposed 7.5 percent reduction in the budgets of myriad agencies, according to the budget bill released Thursday morning.  But as testimony showed, not all cuts are created equal.

The elimination of nearly $9 million from the various funds that sustain the parks will add up to half of the system shutting down immediately, Director Renee Bahl told the Senate Appropriations Committee.  For example, the proposed loss of $1.9 million from the state lake-improvement fund would make it impossible to operate the state parks along the Colorado River, such as Lake Havasu State Park.  [Note: Read the full article at Budget cuts could hobble Arizona state parks system.]

Arizona Legislature considers destruction of Arizona State Parks with HB2001

[Source: Scott Stahl, www.examiner.com] — In a 5th Legislative Special Session on December 17, 2009, elected officials continue to play with the future of Arizona. They could easily be rewriting the history of the state.  They are a legislature that seems to be unable to make difficult decisions and still maintain the integrity of this great state.  Their position has been no temporary tax increase and cut spending.  Thus far, every special session has added new cuts, loss of personnel and services.

The most recent cuts in a proposed House Bill 2001 calls for a further reduction of 7.5% to all state agencies budgets and reallocation of funds.  The Secretary of State’s office has stated that it is now too late to consider a tax referendum because of time constraints.

Arizona State Parks would lose $3,151,100 in Fund reductions and transfers along with Fund sweeps of $6,088,700.  Apparently the studies done by Northern Arizona University, The Morrison Institute, and the Governor’s Task Force on State Parks Sustainability had no impact on the legislature.  The impact of this cut could reduce revenue to the state’s economy by over $266 million dollars.

When you think of the stories of our National Parks by Ken Burns, “One of America’s Greatest Ideas”, you have to wonder what America will say about Arizona’s destruction of their State Parks System. That is exactly what will happen if this current bill passes.  More people will lose their jobs and parks will have to close.  The loss of revenue will force the Parks System to dispose of property purchased and paid for by the people of Arizona, to benefit the people of Arizona, now and in the future.

Viewpoint: Arizona’s heritage? What heritage?

[Source: Editor, Phoenix Magazine] — State Parks officials announced Monday that they would be cutting the budget for Arizona parks even further, tapping special funds that were earmarked for park maintenance and conservation because the state Legislature has throttled way back on its direct support.  The agency’s 2010 operating budget was officially pared down from $26 million to $19.3 million.  It is contingent upon the Legislature’s renewal of special Heritage Fund grants, which support programs and places that are considered to be among the most Arizona-centric stuff in the state.

But if history is a lesson, that may be a long shot. Lawmakers have been raiding the voter-restricted Heritage Funds to pay off the state’s massive $3 billion-and-counting budget deficit.  This left behind a huge mess, which Phoenix Magazine columnist Jana Bommersbach outlined in her June 2009 column titled “(Un)Clean Sweep.”

State Parks Executive Director Renée Bahl, who left San Diego County parks and took office last month, said in a recent press release that Arizona parks are seeking volunteers (and given these types of cutbacks, we’re talking much more than monthly cleanups next to dry stream beds, folks).  “Now our staff will be looking for all different types of partners to keep the parks open in these rural communities,” Bahl said in a prepared statement.  “In September, our staff will be presenting scenarios for salvaging the State Parks and programs.  We will have to drastically reduce our expenses to meet the extremely low budget presented today.”

It’s a sad statement.  Doubly troubling is that these parks that generate much more revenue for Arizona towns than the money that is actually afforded to them through user fees and direct funding from the state’s general fund.  This recent economic analysis has the details, plus a handy summary.