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Bill to protect State Parks revenue clears key hurdle

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Bill to protect State Parks revenue clears key hurdle

Money from parks would be 'unsweepable'

  • Poppies make this trail in Catalina State Park north of Tucson a magnet for hikers.
    Arizona State ParksPoppies make this trail in Catalina State Park north of Tucson a magnet for hikers.

PHOENIX – A bill that would protect Arizona State Parks from legislative sweeps of its gate and concession revenue won preliminary House approval Thursday after overcoming an attempt to narrow its scope.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, proposed floor amendments to HB 2362 that would have protected only parks on land leased from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has been urging Arizona State Parks to use revenues generated by parks for operations and improvements.

“What this bill did was make all of the parks funds unsweepable and all parks funds unappropriated, and that’s a problem,” said Kavanagh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

According to Arizona State Parks, there are 10 state properties with land leased from BLM. They’re recreational parks, which attract the most people and make the most money.

The agency hasn’t received any general fund money since 2009, forcing it to rely heavily on revenues from gate fees and concessions.

Kavanagh’s amendments were struck down at the urging of several other legislators, including Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, the bill’s author, who argued that the agency deserves to be treated like a business after nearly three years of operating like a business.

“Let them keep this small little portion of money that they have left — money that they earned,” Fann said. “We all campaigned on jobs and economic development. And when we take the hot dogs away from the hot dog man, he can’t stay in business anymore.”

The bill received an endorsement from the House Committee of the Whole, setting up a final vote that would transfer it to the Senate.

Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said she trusts the agency to handle its own money.

“I honestly believe the State Parks Board will do a better job of allocating these private funds – they are not general fund dollars – than we will,” she said.

Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said it’s time to stop raiding the agency.

“Fund sweeps have been the gateway drug for balancing budgets,” she said.

Jay Ziemann, legislative liaison for Arizona State Parks, said he was happy the amendments were struck down.

“Representative Kavanagh’s amendments would not have protected the revenues as our federal managers have asked,” he said.

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