Last week, the House Committee on Natural Resources and Rural Affairs approved HCR 2040, a measure that would refer yet another tax increase to Arizona voters. The proposal would require every Arizonan to pay an additional $12 for each license plate registration. The money would be directed to the state parks agency in an attempt to reopen some sites and to fund improvements at others.
HCR 2040 would establish this new tax at a time when few can afford the luxury of paying for other peoples’ recreation. Not everyone benefits from the state parks any more than everyone benefits when my family dines at a restaurant.
This new funding mechanism would place state parks in a position of unaccountable financial independence somewhat similar to the state transportation department and the new Early Childhood Development & Health Board. Self-funded agencies often are not particularly responsive to those they are supposed to serve.
One of the biggest complaints from legislators as they work on the state budget this week revolves around Proposition 105, the 1998 initiative that protects voter-approved spending. The repeated excuse for failing to respond to falling tax revenues has been that much of the spending is off-limits to legislators.
HCR 2040 would make this problem worse, placing more of a financial burden on Arizonans that cannot be easily offset and would further erode our tax-paying capacity. Tax revenues should be spent according to current circumstances and constitutional limits, not momentary whims that later become inflexible mandates.
There is another solution on the table to keep parks open: let private companies manage them and pay the state for the privilege. Last week Fox News commentator Glenn Beck interviewed a local business owner who wants the opportunity to keep our parks open. Until the legislature gives this idea a fair shake, a tax increase shouldn’t even be discussed.
Dr. Byron Schlomach is an economist and the director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Private companies can manage state parks
Arizona Republic: Cost to close parks eats into savings
Arizona Legislature: HCR2040