In a state known for its parks, lakes, hunting and other recreational activities, tourism would seem like the last place to make dramatic cuts. But that’s what Scott Walker has in mind, and I think Wisconsinites are just waking to that reality this morning. WSJ:
Gov. Scott Walker wants to remove state tax money from the operation of Wisconsin’s state parks and make them self-sustaining … proposing to remove all general-purpose revenue to operate Wisconsin state parks, trails and recreation areas - 46 state parks, 14 state trails, four recreational areas and two national scenic trails; a cut of $4.6 million, or nearly 28 percent, of their current $16.7 million operational budget … In place of tax revenue, the governor is proposing that operation of the state park system be funded by entrance and campsite fees.The Greater Public Good: Let me get this right; "stand with Walker" freeloading Wisconsin residents can soak up and enjoy the benefits of our revenue generating tourism industry without ever paying for that public benefit? We all gain directly or indirectly don't we? Relying on user fees will only result in year after year hikes, instead of keeping prices down by spreading the cost to every Wisconsin resident. The same goes for public schools and universities. And of course Walker wants to shift that entire burden away as well, to please his cheap freeloading conservative voters. I mean lets be honest here.
Walker and Big Money donors tried this in Milwaukee County: What about parks that don't bring in enough revenue or need to much maintenance? Sell them off? Of course. After Walker nearly bankrupted Milwaukee County...:
Oct. 9, 2010: Milwaukee County government is in such dire financial shape that state lawmakers should push through legislation that would allow it and other local governments to file for bankruptcy.
Several recommendations included in a super-secret report drafted by the Greater Milwaukee Committee … doing away with the elected county executive's post, spinning off the zoo, the parks and much else under separate commissions.
Did Walker get behind these ideas? Yes. In fact, he didn't think they went far enough believe it or not:
Walker said the draft recommendations are consistent with what he has been saying since he was first elected county CEO in 2002. Specifically, the GOP nominee said the business committee didn't go far enough … Walker said: “To me, the better example is to eliminate the government entirely." The draft recommendations call for … selling off or leasing county properties … spinning off the parks so they are run by separate authorities or commissions.
There it is. This is what Walker is pushing statewide with our revenue generating parks systems. And his Borg-like party pirates in the legislature love it:
Two area legislators whose districts include Lake Wissota State Park said they don’t consider reductions to state park funding in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget as a threat to parks or a barrier to users. Even with those increases, using Lake Wissota State Park would still be a bargain, said state Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie.
The point isn't whether people still have access to the parks at current bargain rates, at least for now.
The point is these are our state parks, and everyone should contribute to their maintenance and improvements...even when we add new parks. It's the only way to keep prices low enough for everyone. Bottom line: Fee increases won't be enough:
Just 18 of Wisconsin’s 74 state recreational properties took in more money than they cost to operate in 2012, according to an analysis … the DNR and UW-Madison in 2013 estimated that the state parks generate $1 billion in economic activity annually.And the other states that have tried defunding their parks?
Philip McKnelly ran the North Carolina state parks system for 15 years and served as the executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors for 10 years until his retirement in late 2013. McKnelly said only a handful of states have tried to make their parks systems self-sustaining, but in his opinion, those efforts largely failed. Removing general fund support from Wisconsin’s parks, McKnelly predicted, “would have a significant impact on the system.”Self imposed Budget Crunches, now and in the future: Of course none of this would be an issue if tax cut madness didn't create biennial shortfalls:
Budget crunches, such as the one Wisconsin is experiencing, have prompted states to use a variety of funding sources, including corporate sponsorships, to keep parks open...