State Capitol News
Fri February 27, 2009
House approves plan to save state parks
By Howard Fischer
Phoenix, AZ – The state House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a
controversial -- and possibly illegal -- transfer of funds from a
voter-approved initiative to keep open state parks.
The Parks Department already has shut down three sites and is
looking at others to deal with the budget cuts imposed by
lawmakers. This measure would give the agency $20 million from a
fund approved by voters in 1998 to help acquire state trust lands
near urban areas to keep them out of the hands of developers.
Rep. Warde Nichols said that fund has grown to more than $65
million since it cannot be used by itself but is available only
to match locally raised dollars.
"So we have $65 million sitting basically in the state coffers
basically doing nothing in these times when we need to find every
penny that we can to help different open spaces stay open like
the state parks."
But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said it was the Republicans who control
the Legislature who cut the parks funds.
"That was their prerogative. But to go now at attempt to take
funds from a voter-protected initiative is likely
unconstitutional. And while some people may not be afraid of
lawsuits I for one think that spending more money on lawsuits
will actually make our fiscal crisis even worse than it already
Sinema said the constitution allows lawmakers to alter voter-
approved measures only to further the purpose. And she said
raiding this land acquisition fund to run the parks does not.