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Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

Posted by Pete at Feb 01, 2011 10:55 AM |
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Proposed legislation would establish a recreation pass that would cover State Park, DNR and Department of Fish and Wildlife recreation lands. Users would be subject to $10/car day pass or a $30 annual pass.

More than 2000 petition signatures later, a new bill - Senate Bill 5622 - that incorporates our major concerns is working its way through the convoluted process of becoming a law. Sponsored by Senators Ranker, Swecker, Fraser, Hargrove, White and Regala, SB 5622 sets up the Discover Pass, which is a three-agency - State Parks, DNR and Fish and Wildlife - vehicle access pass.

The legislation is markedly different from the draft bill circulated by DNR and Fish and Wildlife earlier in the session in that the pass is per vehicle rather than per person. In addition, it would also include State Parks.

As such, it's much more like the Northwest Forest Pass and is much more easily supported by people who hike, mountain bike, ride horses and use ORVs on these lands. While WTA would prefer that the legislature pay for recreation from the general fund, since it's a core public value, we recognize that the state is grappling with a $4.6 billion deficit this year. In order to keep our parks and recreation lands open, WTA believe we must step up and support reasonable solutions like this one.

Here are the particulars of the legislation:

  • A day pass would cost $10 per vehicle.
  • An annual pass would cost $30, and could bepurchased when you renew your vehicle license tabs. It would not be transferable between cars.
  • Of the funds collected, 85% would go to State Parks and 7.5% would go to both DNR and Fish and Wildlife.
  • The pass is expected to raise $71 million per biennium.

If the Discover Pass raises the revenue that economists and the legislature project, those percentages will be sufficient to keep important recreation sites statewide open.

One of WTA's chief concerns with the initial proposal circulated by the agencies was a per person pass. This would have made enforcement extremely difficult and costly, which would have significantly eaten into revenue. Now, enforcing the pass will be as easy as a quick drive through the trailhead parking lot.  

The introduction of this new bill is a good first step, but it is by no means a done deal. WTA needs YOU to attend Hiker Lobby Day next Wednesday, February 9th, in Olympia. You will have the opportunity to meet with your elected officials and express the importance of keeping our state recreation lands open. Please sign up by 8am on Thursday, February 3rd, so that we can make appointments for you.

Can't make Lobby Day? We encourage you to take a moment and call your legislators, particularly your Senator, and urge them to support this legislation. This is one of the best ways you can help keep places like Mount Si, Squak Mountain State Park, and Umtanum Canyon open and maintained. Thank you!


Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

I would support paying $30 with my car tabs!

Posted by:

geologirl on Feb 01, 2011 04:43 PM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

As I said on the earlier post by Jonathon, I would pay the $30.00 with my tab renewal for access to all three agency lands. I agree with Jonathon that recreation is a core value and should be supported by the State's General Fund however, fact of the matter is we live in a 'pay as you go state'.

I am curious as where the Day Passes will be made available for purchase as the ease of obtaining them will be very important for the support of the more random users of the State's public lands.

I live in Senator Ranker's district and I will be attending Lobby Day. Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to express my personnal thanks for his efforts and discuss the bill.

Posted by:

Marty; Have saw, will travel. on Feb 01, 2011 07:01 PM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

I generally like the idea of the new pass but ORV users are currently required to purchase a $30.00 ORV sticker, and that money is now being diverted to state parks already. It doesn't seem completely right that they should be required to spend yet another $30.

Posted by:

Pete on Feb 08, 2011 09:07 AM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

What about senior citizen hikers? $10 per day is difficult for those on a fixed income.


Posted by:

geezerhiker on Feb 08, 2011 09:27 AM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

Explain to me how this is a good deal! I understand it could have been worse. But now I will need to purchase a Forest pass, a Discover Pass, National Parks pass and possibly a special use pass (StHelens, Enchantments,and ??). Now I have to keep track of at least three expensive passes, figure out which I will need before a hike, and which vehicle I will drive. I can't believe that the advocates at WTA feel this is a victory. This pass is never going to go away but it will get more expensive. This is an example of stupid government run wild and the WTA likes the idea. You can be sure when this comes up for a vote the fact that the WTA endorses the idea will sway votes.

Also the estimate of funds raised not pass a squint test. There are only 6 million people in Washington. Does anyone really think that 1 in 6 is going to buy one of these passes each year. Also the dollar amount raised is not very large. A couple million a year will get sucked up in just administration, printing, enforcement and distributing the pass.

If the state is going to transition to user fees they should start with the ferry system which is subsidized at an 80% level. This is where the real money is being spent.

Sorry for the rant. This is wrong on almost all levels and I am really sick of govt nuisance fees. I can't understand why WTA would advocate this kind of legislation. This is not the time for a victory dance.

Posted by:

Tacoman on Feb 08, 2011 10:17 AM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

John seems to be the only person with common sense here. Core government functions and "common good" projects should be funded with general taxes. I'm so sick of being nickeled and dimed (and $$$) everywhere with fees. Collection and enforcement usually eats up a large fraction of the revenue. And it is extremely inconvenient.
Fees are OK / useful when the activity that the fee is charged for is discouraged. Here's my suggestion to fund trails and state parks (and the viaduct & 520 bridge replacement): Increase the gas tax by 30 cents / gallon. A few years ago gas was $2.00 / gallon. Now it's $3.30. Gas was as high as $4.00 not too long ago and people still drove almost as much as before.
Please, no more regressive fees. Have the courage to raise taxes. Wait, no, that doesn't work either in Washington. Voters are too stupid.

Posted by:

Uli on Feb 08, 2011 06:21 PM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

John and Uli,

I hear your frustrations. I share them. This issue is frustrating. WTA has been fighting continually on behalf of hikers for general fund appropriations to keeps state parks and DNR lands open for the past three years. Each year, the budget situation gets worse, and the prospects of obtaining general fund dollars for these lands gets more and more slim. This year, in 2011, that prospect was off the table.

I don't "like the idea" of fees. We're facing reality here, because if we don't, these lands will close. That's our choice. Find a new source of funding for now (a fee structure) or these lands close. We've known this for months. That's why we've engaged hikers and our members in this discussion as openly and honestly as we could -- here on this blog, on our Facebook page, and at our events -- to get a sense for what hikers were willing to do. Pay a fee or not? If so, how much? We listened. When the fee proposal from DNR was unreasonable, we responded quickly, and were successful in getting fee proposal legislation we could live with, and that many hikers told us they could live with.

Our public lands deserve sustainable and stable funding. We believe that recreation is a core public resource, and that these state recreation lands - from state parks to DNR lands - should be supported by appropriated general fund dollars in times of state prosperity. These are not times of state prosperity.

It's frustrating to keep track of another access pass, and hard to part with those dollars. Maybe you will choose not to purchase the Discover Pass. At least if this legislation passes, though, these state lands will stay open so you'll have that choice to make.

Posted by:

Jonathan Guzzo on Feb 11, 2011 02:47 PM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

The state budget shortfall is only about 6%. Cut the DNR budget by 6% and roll with it. Defer trailhead maintainance until times are better. Do you think that when there is more income the Discover pass will go away?

DNR is not going to stop access to these lands. If you were told this please don't believe it. This would cost more than reducing trailhead and trail maintainance by 6%. If they do restrict access it is just retribution, not economically justified. DNR is looking for a excuse to expand the size of its department. That is how state agencies create for work for themselves and how individuals get promotions. I have been there and I have seen it.

Posted by:

Tacoman on Feb 11, 2011 05:35 PM

Multi-Agency User Fee Bill is Now Official

The pass should be transferable between vehicles. We own more than one vehicle, and use the most appropriate one for the season and intended activity. The vehicle itself is not "using" the state park/ DNR lands, the PERSON is! Regardless of how I get there, the pass should be for the person or family using the facility.

I should be able to buy one pass and put it on the dash of the vehicle I'm using similar to the NW forest pass or the National Parks pass is used.


Posted by:

traildoggie on Feb 15, 2011 10:47 AM

discover pass

Why aren't the Senators approaching the big RV manufacturers (Polaris, Skidoo, Honda, Nash, Keystone, Duckworth,Coleman )and outdoor suppliers (REI,Cabelas,) and ask for support rather htan the taxpayers. If the taxpayers aren't able to pay, the ORV industry takes a dive and nobody wins.

Posted by:

Princess on Mar 03, 2011 08:05 AM

It is just another tax

Every time our government wants us to pay more for something it is the same story. If you don't pay this new fee we will have to fire your kids school teachers, lay off your neighborhood's firefighters and police officers, and now they are going to have to close all of the state parks. Next they are going to tell you that they are going to take away your family pet if you don't buy some new tag for your pets collar.
My wife, kids, and I enjoy riding Dirt Bikes and ATVs. I am required to buy ORV tabs each year for all of my “ORV” vehicles in my garage. I am already paying more than my share of fees to fund lands that I am mostly not allowed to ride on and it wouldn’t be fair to add another fee on top of my ORV tabs. Also, I have a question regarding this “$30.00 per vehicle fee”. Is that going to be applied to my truck, trailer, and each motorcycle and ATV that I am hauling? You say "Of course not that wouldn't be reasonable." I read HB 1796 from top to bottom and it sounded to me like I will be paying a new fee FOR EACH VEHICLE on top of the ORV tabs that I already have. Even if I am only paying a new fee for just my truck, it still isn't reasonable to expect us to pay this much money for very limited ORV recreation. What especially makes me feel outraged is that the money that I pay for ORV tabs and now the money for this new fee probably won’t even get spent on the lands that are open for ORV use.

Posted by:

"Douglas Reed" on Mar 14, 2011 09:08 PM