Arizona banks pretty heavily on tourism to bring some dollars into its economy. So a bill aiming to knock $193 million from the state’s expenses really makes me scratch my head in wonder. And not in the good way. (Check out Jim Small’s blog for a good technical synopsis, a press release from the State Parks department and some points from the State Parks Foundation) The Senate passed the bill, which I’ve seen called HB2001 and S1001, last week.
There’s nothing wrong with saving money. But the bill includes cuts and a cash grab from Arizona’s state park system – a classic case of saving a nickel and losing a dollar. State parks bring tourists and are a great service for residents. According to the Arizona State Parks Foundation, the parks bring in close to $266 million and 2.2 million visitors a year. The state park cuts account for just 5 percent of the overall trimming. Adding insult to the injury, the bill also will slurp $9.2 million from the park’s coffers (from user fees, mostly), in a move euphemistically lableled a “sweep,” into the general fund. See more in veteran journalist Howard Fischer’s article.
Seventy-five state workers stand to lose their jobs. And here’s a partial list of what visitors and residents stand to lose: Kartchner Caverns, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Slide Rock, Lost Dutchman State Park, Picacho Peak and many others.
It’s unfortunate that many people (both elected officials and online commentors) are trying to turn this into a contest between fiscal conservatives who are just looking out for the children and foolish, America-hatin’ “libruls.” But the fact is that state parks go beyond your voter registration card. Certainly our elected officials can find other ways to trim expenses or raise funds without gutting these invaluable state assets.
Governor Jan Brewer will have to sign this bill. If you’d like her to re-think it, send her a message. I’m curious what Sherry Henry, Arizona’s state tourism director, has to say about this. My Google News search turned up zip.