Arizona House Bill 2001 proposes reductions and sweeps of $8.6 million from conservation funds such as the state parks gate fees, donations, State Lake Improvement Fund and Heritage Funds. The consequence of the sweeps would be the closure of state parks, which would mean an additional $266 million revenue loss to rural communities stemming from reduced leisure business generated by the 2.3 million park visitors.
"These sweeps will be catastrophic to the agency and will eliminate any hope of us operating the system or contributing to the economies of these rural communities," said Reese Woodling, the Arizona State Parks Board chairman. "If this bill passes we would need to reduce staff by approximately 75 of our remaining 218 employees and that step would force park closures. Also, these cuts are based on the Parks being open and earning over $8 million from gate fees which will not happen with parks closed."
House Bill 2001 is seeking $194 million in state government cuts to begin to address a deficit currently estimated at $1.5 billion. The proposed cuts to State Parks would equate to almost 5 percent of their solution, while State Parks currently receives less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the overall state budget. In addition, State Parks receives no money from the state general fund; however, the impact of the park system on the state's economy is more than $266 million.
Here are the proposed sweeps from state parks funds:
- $2,302,100 in reductions and sweeps to the Enhancement Fund (gate fees), which is the agency's principle operating budget, will force staff reductions. 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. These cuts would make it impossible to operate the parks along the Colorado River. The Enhancement Fund and SLIF reductions equate to the loss of at least 75 employees, certainly leading to many park closures.
- $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 the grants that have been awarded out to Arizona's communities for historic preservation and city/county parks.
- State Parks Gift Shop revolving fund, $131,500
- State Parks Donations Fund, $213,900
The full Senate must consider the bill before it moves to the House (HB2001).
The Arizona State Parks Foundation is asking the public to contact Gov. Jan Brewer and urge her to veto the parks cuts. A sample letter is posted the organization's Web site, http://arizonastateparksfoundation.org.