Washington State Parks Need Taxpayer Help
Four years ago, Washington State lawmakers set out to make the state parks system self-sufficient — surviving on visitor fees alone.
A new report says it’s not going to happen.
According to an Associated Press report, the nine-page analysis from the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission to the Legislature and the state Office of Financial Management makes clear the 117-park system can’t survive without taxpayer support.
“There’s no way we can make it on our own 100% in the short run,” said Daniel Farber, the commission’s director of policy and governmental affairs. “It is not a feasible, practical thing for us to do in the long run.”
The parks benefit all residents of the state and therefore should be supported by a mix of user-generated revenue and general public support, the report says.
Beginning in 2009, the Legislature slashed the agency’s allotment from the state general fund, forcing the parks system to make cuts in staffing and programs. Lawmakers created an annual park pass called the Discover Pass to help make up the difference, but sales have been lower than expected, forcing them to spend millions of dollars in litter tax receipts to prevent park closures. Litter taxes are taxes on manufacturers of items that contribute to litter problems, such as cigarettes and soft drinks.
“To put it succinctly, state parks is in an unsustainable financial situation,” the report states. “While the agency has been able to effect a modest increase in revenues, these simply are not sufficient to cover the costs of running the park system.”
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