The last two state budgets have been hard on Arizona's state parks. With a deficit in the billions, state funding to maintain the parks and run the department has been trimmed by 28 percent. In an effort to keep our wonderful parks maintained, the Morrison Institute recently issued a report called "The Price of Stewardship: The Future of Arizona's State Parks" which called for a new vehicle registration fee to fund state parks. But there is a different approach that could work without requiring a new vehicle tax.Arizona Republic: State parks need funding solution or they will die
State parks should be administered with the goal of attracting visitors. Properly run, people who enjoy the parks will pay the fees necessary to support them.
The Arizona Republic supports the Morrison Institute recommendation, even while acknowledging current park fees are being robbed to fund other state functions. Given the legislature's demonstrated willingness to raid dedicated funds, it hardly makes sense to argue for a new fund and believe it won't be raided during future fiscal crises.
Instead of raising taxes to fund parks, we should allow private companies to pay the state an annual fee to manage them. The state will continue to own the parks and there would be strict management guidelines and standards that companies would meet. These private companies would have the incentive and know-how to create innovative park programs and events that would draw visitors sufficient to fund our parks operations and maintenance.
Arizona is lucky to have amazing state parks. Instead of draining the state budget, they could be revenue producers--no taxes required.
Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., is the director of the Goldwater Institute's Center for Economic Prosperity.
Channel 12: Byron Schlomach on how to REALLY save Arizona's state parksThe Morrison Institute: The Price of Stewardship: The Future of Arizona's State Parks