Budget Proposals Contrast On State Park Funding
Yesterday in Olympia the Washington State House released its operating budget. A line item that WTA has been awaiting with anticipation was the funding level it would provide for Washington State Parks. The Washington Senate's budget came out last week, and it is not surprising that the amount designated for State Parks differs in the two proposals.
State Parks fares much better in the House version than in the Senate. Here's the breakdown:
- House: State Parks will receive $23.7 million for the 2013-2015 biennium, which is a $2.5 million increase over the current 2011-2013 funding period.
- Senate: Allocates $16.5 million to State Parks for the next biennium, which constitutes a nearly $5 million cut from the current amount.
The House budget is very similar to the one that Governor Inslee released earlier this year and represents a relatively stable funding amount compared to what State Parks currently is receiving. With this level of funding, the system will continue to limp along as State Parks advocates work to build pressure for better budget outcomes in coming sessions to address serious maintenance and facility backlogs and ranger staffing levels.
The Senate budget, however, will continue the sharp decline in park facilities that we've seen over the past several years and could result in the full or partial closure of many state parks. That Washington State Parks might be faced with closing facilities in the midst of its centennial year is disheartening. We should be reinvesting in parks rather than turning our backs on them.
How to help state parks
Please take a moment to call your Senator and Representatives. Let them know that you appreciate the hard budget decisions that must be made this session but make sure that they understand the value and importance of our state public lands to your family, to our state's economy and to Washington's overall quality of life. Share your experience enjoying these special places and urge the legislature to support the House of Representative's request of $23.7 million in general funding for State Parks.
Here are some tips for calling elected officials:
- Call the legislative hotline: 1.800.562.6000 and ask for your senator's office.
- Identify yourself (tell them if you are a constituent) and why you are calling: "I believe that Washington needs a budget that invests in our state parks. Please support $27 million in General Fund appropriations for Parks."
- Keep your call short and courteous.
- Remember to thank the staff member for his or her time.
Thank you for speaking out for trails!