Phoenix, AZ – State lawmakers took the first steps this afternoon to making
further budget adjustments -- including several that could end up
closing all state parks. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer
The plan approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee cuts
funding for most state agencies by 7 1/2 percent. But it also
raids a host of special funds to the tune of about $50 million --
more than $9 million of that from various special accounts
administered by the Parks Department. Jay Ziemann, the agency's
deputy director, noted parks get no general fund tax dollars.
Taking the funds, he said, will cripple the system.
"Put it this way, more staff we have to lay off, more parks we
have to close, the less revenue we generate. So then we have to
lay off more staff. More parks close. And it just becomes a
spiral that eventually we can't sustain."
Sen. Russell Pearce said there are other options, like hiking
admission fees to parks.
"I'm a believer in user fees. You use a service that's open to
you. There's a cost to that service. We've always protected
parks. We'll do as best we can, even in these tough times. But
you simply have no money."
And Pearce said with a $1.6 billion deficit, parks may have to
give way to higher priorities like education and public safety.
The measure now goes to the full Senate.