HB 2362 would have prevented legislators from sweeping revenues and gate fees from Arizona State Parks, like Tonto Natural Bridge, in an effort to balance the budget.
Gov. Jan Brewer this week vetoed a bill that would protect Arizona State Parks from legislative sweeps of its gate and concession revenue.
In her veto message, the governor concluded the language of the bill was too broad and promised to work with the bill’s sponsors to draft an alternative.
The legislature approved the measure in part to satisfy objections raised by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which leases land to the state for several of the 28 parks in the system.
The governor said that in trying to deal with the BLM’s objections, the bill would have made all of the state park funds safe from a legislative sweep and therefore “does not achieve the desired outcome.”
The veto means the legislature remains free to divert entrance fees and other money used to run parks like Tonto Natural Bridge to other uses. The legislature has made deep cuts in the park budget in the past several years and only contributions for Payson, Star Valley, the Tonto Apache Tribe and volunteers have keep Rim Country’s best-known tourist attraction open in the past several years.
The House and Senate had rejected amendments to HB 2362 proposed by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, that would have have protected only parks on land leased from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has been urging Arizona State Parks to use revenues generated by parks for operations and improvements.
“What this bill did was make all of the parks funds unsweepable and all parks funds unappropriated, and that’s a problem,” said Kavanagh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
According to Arizona State Parks, there are 10 state properties with land leased from BLM. They’re recreational parks, which make the most money.
The agency hasn’t received any general fund money since 2009, forcing it to rely heavily on revenues from gate fees and concessions.
Kavanagh’s amendments were struck down at the urging of several other legislators, including Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, the bill’s author.
“Let them keep this small little portion of money that they have left — money that they earned,” Fann said. “We all campaigned on jobs and economic development. And when we take the hot dogs away from the hot dog man, he can’t stay in business anymore.”