The future of Washington’s state parks’ financial viability may depend on a legislative agreement to expand an access pass program first implemented last July.
Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2373, concerning the state’s management of its recreational resources, passed the Senate 30-17 on March 6, but with substantial amendment. It returns to the House for reconsideration, islandssounder.com reported.
The bill concerns the implementation as well as the sale of the Discover Pass.
Sen. Kevin Ranker (D – 40th District, Orcas Island) crafted what is termed a striker amendment that replaced the original language of the bill that passed the House Feb. 28. Ranker’s amendment was adopted with bipartisan support.
Ranker’s amendment removes a number of sectons found in the House version of the bill. The Senate bill eliminates a $10 state parks support fee on recreational vehicle registrations. The fee would have gone into effect immediately but would have expired on July 1, 2015. The earned revenue would have helped maintain State parks.
The Senate version also removes certain provisions that would have given discounts to senior citizens, to those permanently disabled and individuals who qualify for a lifetime veteran’s disability pass.
The Discover Pass was created during last year’s legislative session and went into effect July 1. An annual pass costs $30 while the day-use permit is $10. It is required on all vehicles that access or park on recreational lands.
The original legislation was created to make up for the loss in State general fund support. During the 2007-09 biennium, State general fund support made up 66 percent of the parks’ operating budget. That support has shrunk to 12 percent of the parks’ operating budget.
The remainder of the operating budget consists of revenue generated through park fees for services, donations and dedicated funds from the federal government.
According to State Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mark Brown, the current revenue from Discover Pass sales is 60 percent less than what was originally projected.
The original projected revenue from Discover Pass sales through the month of December 2011 was $19.38 million. The actual revenue realized was only $8.8 million.
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