[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] – Backers of a proposed state ballot measure to protect state parks from future budget raids say they are moving forward with their effort to get on the November ballot. The Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act also would offer schoolchildren free admission to state parks and would allocate a portion of automobile taxes to state parks in the budget. The money would go toward operations, repairs and improvements.The measure needs to collect 172,800 voter petition signatures by July 5 to get on the November ballot.
Backers of the plan were considering waiting until the 2014 election to make the push, but Larry Landry, a partner with lobbying firm Landry Creedon & Associates Inc., said they are opting “to move full steam ahead” with the signature-gathering effort and try to meet the deadline.
Landry said the measure polls well with voters. The Arizona Legislature has raided or swept $15 million from parks and conservation funds and budgets since 2009 and passed tax cuts as it dealt with overall budget shortfalls.
Parks measure advocates are reaching out to environmental, education, business and tourism groups touting the state parks’ contribution to the Arizona economy, especially through tourism. Major business and tourism groups contacted, including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Business and Education Coalition, National Federation of Independent Businessand Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said they don’t have an official stance on the measure.