State Legislature update: Headed to special session

May 3, 2013


What exactly is going on in Olympia right now?

Right now, legislators are headed back to their districts until May 13th. Then, they’ll return to Olympia for a month-long special session to resolve the budget and other policy bills.

What’s the status of parks and wildlife funding through the WWRP?

Two weeks ago, the house and senate released their proposed budgets. The House proposed $70 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program–for over 85 parks, farms and wildlife areas across the state. The Senate, on the other hand, cherrypicked the program, skipping over competitively ranked projects to fund others lower on the funding list, and eliminated all projects related to wildlife habitat protection. Not only that, but if passed, their budget proposal of $39.6M would be the lowest in the 24 year history of the program.

What’s the Coalition doing about the cherrypicking?

The Coalition has been working furiously in all corners of the state, mobilizing supporters like the American Farmland Trust, the Friends of Beacon Rock State Park, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and dozens of other groups. We’re working with a number of organizations to get the word out through, placed newspaper articles, and raising the profile of the cherrypicking everywhere we go.

And, thanks to the support of members like you, we’re able to mount a rapid response campaign to these targeted attacks on funding for wildlife habitat.

You can help us ensure that parks and wildlife survive the cut this year by making a donation today.

How are State Parks doing this year?

Many of you have expressed a strong interest in the fate of the State Parks system this year, and for good reason. The transition to the Discover Pass has come with some challenges. While Washington State Parks actually has one of the best user pay systems in the nation, it has become clear that our iconic parks system cannot survive on Discover Pass sales alone.

The good news is that the House, Senate and Governor all agree that Parks needs support from the state’s general fund. The Senate has proposed $17 million for State Parks ($7 million from the general fund and $10 million diverted from the litter tax), while the Governor and the House have proposed $23.7 million. The State Parks Commission has stated that they believe that  $27.2 million is necessary to keep parks open and afloat.

The bad news is that the Senate’s cherrypicking proposal also targets a number of state parks projects in the capital budget through the WWRP. These are projects like Miller Peninsula Park Access which would provide parking, trailer hitching and access to the park. You can see all of the state park projects that are at risk here.

These are exactly the kind of projects that State Parks need to increase the appeal of parks and boost Discover Pass sales.

Photo by Jill Wasberg.