Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, the candidates vying to serve as Washington’s next governor, share similar positions on support for the state parks system, according to the Issaquah Press, which asked the candidates about funding for state parks.
Both candidates bring experience in elected office to the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire. Gregoire, a Democrat, decided not to run for a third term after presiding over the state during round after round of bruising budget cuts.
Bellevue resident McKenna is the state attorney general. Bainbridge Island resident Inslee represented Washington in the U.S. House of Representatives in separate stints in the 1990s and 2000s.
More dollars for state parks system
Inslee and McKenna support a return to some support from taxpayer dollars for the state parks system. Legislators created the Discover Pass last year to collect fees from parkgoers at Lake Sammamish, Squak Mountain and other state parks, but the system continues to struggle.
“The need for healthy funding for our parks is growing greater over time, because we’ve got more need, not less, for opportunities to be outdoors, particularly for our kids, both for educational purposes and for health purposes,” Inslee said in a recent interview. “I believe our state parks are our jewels in our crown, and they’ve become more important rather than less over time. So, it really has been a heartbreak to see the collapse of state support for the parks.”
McKenna said the state could generate dollars by offering long-term concession leases at parks, and save money elsewhere in the budget and then direct a portion to state parks.
“The reason that the state Legislature and governor have cut state parks so deeply is that they haven’t been able to manage other state costs, so my plan is stop cutting our parks budget and over time to restore some of that funding,” he said in a recent interview. “We’ll do that by controlling other areas of state expense — administrative costs, overhead, state employee health insurance costs and so forth.”
Inslee said funding for state parks is a priority, but leaders need to direct dollars to other commitments, too.
“I just don’t believe there’s a reasonable plan for them to be totally self-funding,” he said. “They’re going to need some state general fund support in some sense. I intend to try to accomplish that. Now, it’s not going to happen overnight because of the needs we have and, obviously, our paramount duty is education.”
McKenna, a former King County councilman, cited county-run Marymoor Park as a model for attracting outside dollars to state parks.
“They can certainly do more to help support themselves through long-term contracts with concessionaires, for example,” he said. “We were very successful at Marymoor Park in this regard when I was on the County Council. It was in those days when we asked people to start paying a couple bucks to park their cars. We let out contracts for concessionaires. We started in that park allowing some activities to come in — concerts and circuses, because Marymoor has the land to do it.”