Bill to Reinstate Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund Passes House Committee 8-0 ~ Please call Representative John Kavanagh

On Monday, February 18, HB2594, a Bill to reinstate the Heritage Fund, passed unanimously in the Arizona House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources

HB2594 would reinstate the Local Transportation Assistance Fund (LTAF), which helps to fund transit services, and also the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund, which funds parks programs, environmental education, trails, historic preservation, and more.

Both of these funds received Arizona Lottery revenues but were eliminated by the Legislature and Governor during the 2010 state budget crisis. Under this bill, both funds would receive their original allocations — LTAF would receive $9 million per year and Heritage Fund $10 million per year.

Representative Ethan Orr of Tucson is the primary sponsor of HB2594 with Representatives Juan Carlos Escamilla of San Luis, Karen Fann of Prescott, Frank Pratt of Casa Grande, T.J. Shope of Coolidge, Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff, and Bruce Wheeler of Tucson as cosponsors.

Beth Woodin of Tucson, president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, noted, “It is heartening to see state legislators recognize the need to restore the Heritage Fund that was overwhelmingly supported by voters in 1990. Over the years, millions of dollars in Heritage Fund matching grants have developed new parks, trail systems, campgrounds, picnic facilities, and lake improvements, as well as preserved important parts of our rich cultural heritage.”

In a study conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University, it was found that direct expenditures from the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in 2007, the last full year of Heritage Fund matching grants, were $12.9 million spent on both land acquisition and construction related to maintenance and repair. 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 the Arizona State Park Heritage Fund. Estimated total taxes for these expenditures (Local, State, and Federal) were $3.3 million.

William Schwind, vice president of the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association, stated, “It’s now our hope that the House Appropriations Committee, under the chairmanship of Representative John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, will give HB2594 a full and fair hearing and move the legislation to the House floor.”

However, two similar bills in the last two legislative sessions were not advanced by Chairman Kavanagh. When recently asked if he would hear HB2594 in Committee, he refused. The reinstatement of the State Parks Heritage Fund is in his hands. He needs to know today that the citizens of Arizona care about this issue.

We urge you to please call or email  Representative John Kavanagh at jkavanagh@azleg.gov,  602-926-5170 and ask him to PLEASE HEAR HB2594 in House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmaker: Funding state parks improvements now saves costs later

[Source: Donyelle Kesler, Cronkite News] – Delaying capital improvements needed after years of deep budget cuts to Arizona State Parks will only exacerbate the problems and increase future costs, a state lawmaker said Wednesday. “If you don’t take care of your infrastructure, it’s like not taking care of your house and if you let that little $2 item go and don’t fix it, you end up with a $100 repair bill,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Fann, whose district includes five state parks, said Arizona has been doing roughly the same thing with its parks for too long. “Not only are we behind the curve on fixing what should have been fixed years ago, but now we have additional problems on top of them,” she said. Bryan Martyn, director of Arizona State Parks, is requesting $15.5 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget for capital improvements. Arizona State Parks hasn’t received money from the state’s general fund since 2009 and currently works off a $19.5 million budget. Officials say state parks have about $200 million in capital needs.

Fann, who pushed successfully last year to allow Arizona State Parks to keep all gate and concession fees, said that parks are vital to the state’s economy. “It is responsible for over 3,000 direct jobs, it is responsible for over $2 million worth of revenue, and so state parks is really something we need to keep open,” Fann said. “This isn’t a feel-good item, this is about our economy. The feel-good and the beauty and all that stuff, that’s just the icing on the cake.”

Cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget led to agreements allowing some communities to take over operations and keep parks operating. Arizona State Parks Board Chairman Tracy Westerhausen said the $15.5 million would be an investment. “It serves the people who come from outside of Arizona to see our parks and enriches the lives of the people who are here already,” she said. Westerhausen said the projects include improving water-treatment systems and electrification of campsites. “We’re under a state mandate to provide clean water to people who come to our parks, and one of the things we can’t do is improve our water structure in the parks,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said Brewer has taken Martyn’s request into account along with all of the proposals from other state agencies. “Of course state parks are a priority, but so is public safety, classroom education, road and transportation systems, Child Protective Services – all of these issues are important,” Benson said.

Grady Gammage Jr., who as a senior research fellow for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-wrote a 2009 report on ways to fund state parks said the facilities are assets to both the state’s economy and residents. Image

“Part of reason people want to live in Arizona is because of the open space and natural resources of parks and it can have a lot to do with what makes the state attractive to businesses and people moving here,” Gammage said. “If you don’t support that, you risk a lot more than just damaging the parks, you risk damaging this economic engine that drives Arizona.”

Arizona Heritage Fund Update, Summer 2012

This past legislative session, HCR2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones (R-Yuma) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 17 members of the House, would have placed a referendum on the November ballot seeking voter approval for reinstatement of the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund. “Pristine areas that represent the varied vistas, flora, and fauna found throughout Arizona, along with many important fragile sites, represent the heart and soul of our state,” Jones said. “It’s particularly important now, as Arizona celebrates its Centennial, that we rededicate ourselves to the preservation of our historical roots and spectacular vistas.”

The bill passed its first hurdle, gaining the unanimous 9-0 vote of the House Agricultural and Water Committee. However, the measure was suffocated in the State House before it could even get a full debate. The House Appropriations Committee chairman, Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), said there were more important uses for the money and denied it a hearing.

“Voters fought for 22 years to protect this fund,” said Beth Woodin, President of the Heritage Alliance and former Arizona Game & Fish Commissioner. “We’re doing everything we can in our waking hours to bring it back to them. The Heritage Fund has a huge economic impact,” she said. “For legislators who are cranking the line about job creation and community pride, this is something really positive to have on your resume.”

In May, the Citizens to Save Arizona’s Natural Resources filed language for an Initiative to seek qualification for the November 2012 statewide ballot that provides voter-protected funding for the management and protection of our natural resources.  The new initiative called the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act will ensure that current and future generations are able to enjoy the natural splendor, historic heritage and outdoor recreational opportunities offered at our Arizona parks and recreational areas.

This campaign was created in a very short time in response to the Governor’s veto of HB2362, state parks revenue fund, which was sponsored by Representative Karen Fann (R-Prescott). Fann’s bill would have established the State Parks Revenue Fund consisting of retail sales, appropriations, gifts, donations, user fees, concession fees and other revenue generating activities.

Previously, for many years, Parks was asked by the Governor and Legislature to operate like a business and make its own money. It did just that, and fairly well, but the Legislature took all of that too. HB2362 was intended to be a remedy for that sort of sweep. It passed the House and Senate with about 97% of the vote only to be vetoed by the Governor. Brewer did not like that there were no provisions to have those funds appropriated by the Legislature. As part of budget 2012 negotiations, those funds are now permitted to go to Parks as long as they are appropriated.

Currently, the group, Citizens to Save Arizona’s Natural Resources, is hoping it can gather the 230,000 or so signatures necessary to make it to the ballot for 2012. The Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act, if successful, will be funded donations from generous citizens when they renew their drivers’ registrations. The fee suggested is $14, but one may opt out of it for any or all automobile registrations. This is not a tax. It is voluntary. It is hoped that enough citizens will donate to fill the fund and more so that State Parks may once again keep all parks open and in good repair.

This Initiative language is written by Andy Gordon who penned the original Heritage Fund Initiative in 1990. Gordon is a partner with Coppersmith Schermer & Brockelman PLCand specializes in Election Law. This measure to help save State Parks is important for Arizona’s wildlife too. It would:

  • voter-protects the entire $10 million Game and Fish Heritage Fund.
  • establishes a new State Parks granting fund for $10 million to be used for habitat protection and purchase as well as environmental education and historic preservation.
  • protects all Arizona State Parks funds from Legislative sweeps.

If the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act does not make it to the ballot or is not passed by the voters in 2012, another similar initiative will get crafted in November for the 2014 election cycle. The Arizona Heritage Alliance will continue leading the dialog with community leaders to reinstate the State Parks Heritage Fund.

A 2007 study estimated that 224 jobs were directly supported by Parks Heritage Fund grants. Heritage-funded improvements to parks and historic sites help attract more than 2 million visitors, about half from out of state, who add $266 million to our state’s economy each year and support an additional 3,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas that have been among the most heavily impacted by the economic downturn.

Reinstatement of the parks funding is not a partisan issue. It is not a liberal-conservative issue. It is common sense and sound business practice a win-win for wildlife and habitat, outdoor recreation, historical restoration and Arizona taxpayers.

For more information regarding the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act go to:

New Statewide Coalition Rallies For Parks and Open Space

[Source: Christie Silverstein, Arizona Forward, 2/21/2012] – A statewide coalition of business and environmental organizations rallied today at the State Capitol in support of legislation to bolster the financial condition of Arizona State Parks. The lead organizations were Arizona Forward, a statewide business association, and the Arizona State Parks Foundation, backed by 300 other business, environmental and community organizations. Arizona Forward was launched on Aug. 31 with the release of  “Why Parks and Open Space Matter – the Economics of Arizona’s Natural Assets,” a comprehensive examination of the status of Arizona efforts to preserve the outdoor environment. After releasing the primer, Arizona Forward was contacted by parks stakeholders around the state to help form an advocacy coalition.

The immediate purpose of the capitol rally is to show support for HB 2362, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Karen Fann, R‐Prescott, with 22 other sponsors in the House and Senate. The bill would protect the income earned by state parks through entrance fees and other user charges from legislative budget sweeps. Brian Martyn, a Pinal County supervisor and Parks Foundation board member, said the Fann bill is vitally important to state parks in trying to meet business goals. “Like any business, state parks need incentives to meet its objectives, including the assurance that using best business practices will contribute to the financial success of the parks system,” said Martyn.

“That assurance is missing if the Legislature can sweep the income that parks earn.”

Other messages advanced by the coalition, Martyn said, include “the recognition that the Fann bill doesn’t solve the long‐term funding gap faced by state parks and we are working to convince legislators that state parks operations cannot stand any additional sweeps from its remaining revenue sources.”

Martyn noted that state parks are in precarious financial condition, causing a number of

parks to operate on reduced hours and others staying open only through temporary

contributions from local governments and friends groups. Kurt Wadlington, Tucson building group leader for Sundt Construction and chairman of Arizona Forward, said the parks report was validation of the business case for environmental prioritization. “We learned from statewide polling that nearly every Arizonan (93 percent) believes that parks and open space are essential to Arizona tourism, a $17 billion industry.”

“Other studies we reviewed showed that outdoor recreation attracts more than 5.5 million Arizonans, generating approximately $350 million in annual state taxes and nearly $5 billion in retail services while supporting 82,000 jobs,” he said. “Clearly, it is in every Arizonan’s interest to maintain a robust system of parks, open space and wildlife habitat and Arizona Forward is exploring long‐term solutions to funding that system,” added Wadlington.