May 13, 2015
Republicans Slash Funding For State Parks in Budget by 20 Percent, Will Shift Maintenance and Operation Costs to Parks Users and Jeopardize Health of Parks System
OLYMPIA – We have highlighted numerous examples of budget gimmicks and cuts in the Senate Republican budget proposal that have paved the way for an extended special session in Olympia. Here's another. The Senate Republican budget severely underfunds the Washington State Parks budget that has already been slashed in recent sessions and is running on fumes.
The Senate proposal funds parks at $24M below the House & Governor’s budget proposals and represents a 20 percent cut in the overall funding (from $136 million).
In addition to slashed funding, Senate Republicans once again rely on fuzzy math by projecting that state parks will earn an additional ten percent in earned revenue from the sale of the Discover Passes and usage fees — more than any current projection by the agency — in an attempt to hide even further underfunding of the system.
“Once again we see faulty math, budget deception and cuts by Senate Republicans that will result in either a widespread decline of park conditions, greater reductions in services, or a shift of operating costs to consumers,” said Jaxon Ravens, Chair of the Washington State Democrats. “Their desperate attempts to shift costs onto hardworking people to protect the wealthy and large corporations from paying their fair share is jeopardizing a parks system that supports thousands of jobs in our state and that has the added benefit of being an affordable way for hard working families to enjoy a vacation or weekend away.”
A 2015 report commissioned by the Recreation and Conservation Office estimated that the outdoor recreation sector in Washington supports up to 199,000 jobs, generates $21.6 billion annually in economic activity and brings in $2 billion in revenue directly to the state and local governments. The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program has reported that active outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, boating, fishing and hunting generates and additional $8.5 billion annually in retail sales in services, accounts for 3.5 percent of gross state product, 115,000 jobs and $650 million in sales tax revenue.
Washington State Parks recently detailed how Senate Republican’s proposed cuts could potentially set in motion a downward spiral within our parks system. Cuts could lead to a 17 percent reduction in workforce, losses of millions in revenue, further reductions in customer service, and ultimately a decline in earned revenue by Parks that could make the Senate’s 20 percent cut much worse.
Other negative impacts include:
- Further decline in park conditions.
- A deferred maintenance backlog that will continue to grow (current backlog is $470M).
- A reduction in park visitation.
- Reduced revenue from user fees – starting with a loss just under $5 million in revenue earnings made possible by the Governor’s level of funding.
- Lower spending in local communities by park visitors reducing tax revenue.
- Little support for volunteer services and park development projects.
- Increased health and safety concerns for employees and visitors.
“What’s clear is Republicans are blocking the way to true compromise on a final budget because their priorities are out of line with the priorities of the majority of Washingtonians,” said Ravens. “The more people dig into their budget, the more problems they see and it is time for Senate Republicans to come to the table and negotiate in good faith with the Governor and the House.”