Yes, the economy is tough, but Arizona State Parks deserve funding and support

[Source: Tucson Weekly, Irene Messina 7-15-2010] – I’m beginning to think Gov. Jan Brewer and the members of the Arizona Legislature were big fans of The Sopranos. They’ve whacked education, social services and even highway rest areas; this legislative family hasn’t been at all hospitable.

Let’s look at the Arizona State Parks system. According to the Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy, since 2003, “the Arizona Legislature and the state’s governors have eroded support for state parks in reducing general-fund appropriations, ‘sweeping’ cash from dedicated funds and forcing the agency to survive on park-produced fees and pieces of indirect user levies, set-asides and federal dollars.” [to read the full article click here].

Viewpoint: Where Does The Money Go Now?

[Source: Janice Miano, Director of Administration, Arizona Heritage Alliance] — In 1990, the voters of Arizona, through a voter-initiative, created the Heritage Fund to protect and conserve our state’s wildlife, natural, and historic resources.  The vision of children playing on new swings in new parks; the reintroduction of endangered species into our state; historic buildings restored to their former glory and new uses; the acquisition of open space and critical environmental habitat; all of these programs and more have become a reality because of the creation of the Heritage Fund.

Since the beginning over $338.5 million have been directed towards the saving and expanding of Arizona’s environmental, cultural, and historical resources.  In addition, millions of dollars in matching grant money and the re-investment in our natural and cultural resources have brought economic and environmental benefits into almost every community in our state.

Money for the Heritage Fund comes from the Arizona Lottery — up to $20 million in annual lottery revenue is divided evenly between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State Parks.

This legislative session was going well with the Lottery reauthorized via Senate Bill 1004 and signed into law by Governor Brewer on February 9.  This bill stated that the Arizona Lottery would be reauthorized with all its beneficiaries intact.

You have all seen those warm and fuzzy commercials on TV and in the newspaper telling us of all the wonderful projects the Arizona Lottery supports?  It’s called How The Money Helps on the Arizona Lottery’s website.  However, how does the money help now?  Well, it doesn’t help anymore.  The Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund is DEAD, FINI, KAPUT – killed by Governor Brewer’s stroke of her pen on March 18 with Budget Reconciliation Bill HB2012.

Where dose the money go now? HB2012 makes temporary and permanent law changes relating to state revenues in order to implement the FY 2010-11 state budget.  And for FY 2009-10, redirects state lottery distributions to the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund after February 1, 2010 through the end of the fiscal year to the state’s General Fund.  The bill also REPEALS the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund and REVERTS any monies remaining in the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund on June 30, 2011 to the state’s General Fund.

Do you still want to buy Lottery tickets? Remember the Heritage Fund was created by the voters of Arizona and the original statute (ARS 41-502 and ARS 17-297) said, “In no event shall any monies in the fund revert to the state general fund…”

Along with Governor Brewer, please remember these names.

  • Senators voting to eliminate the State Parks Heritage Fund were: Sylvia Allen; David Braswell; Chuck Gray; Jack Harper; Barbara Leff; Al Melvin; Russell Pearce; Ed Bunch; Linda Gray; John Huppenthal; Steve Pierce; Thayer Verschoor; Frank Antenori; Ron Gould; John Nelson; and Senate President Bob Burns.
  • House Members voting to kill the State Parks Heritage Fund were: Ray Barnes; Tom Boone; Judy Burges; Rich Crandall; Doris Goodale; Laurin Hendrix; Bill Konopnicki; Rick Murphy; Michele Reagan; Carl Seel; Andrew Tobin; Jim Weiers, Steven Yarbrough; Nancy Barto; David Gowan; Russ Jones; Debbie Lesko; Lucy Mason; Nancy McLain; Warde Nichols; Frank Pratt; Amanda Reeve; Jerry Weiers; Cecil Ash; Andy Biggs; Steve Court; Adam Driggs; John Kavanagh; John McComish; Steve Montenegro; Doug Quelland; David Stevens; Vic Williams; and Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams.

In 2007, the Morrison Institute said, “The Heritage Fund stands out in part because of the diversity of programs it supports.”  The Arizona Heritage Fund has supplied valuable programs and resources for the residents of Arizona and those who visit the state.  The economic, environmental, education, tourism, and quality of life benefits that result from the Heritage Fund are too important to the citizens of Arizona to be lost!

The Arizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund is still intact but for how long?

Arizona Legislature considers destruction of Arizona State Parks with HB2001

[Source: Scott Stahl,] — 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.

State Parks system needs funds to prevent collapse

[Source: Tammy Gray-Searles,, 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.]