New State Budget a Mixed Bag for Trails, Hikers
Washington state's new budget made deep cuts across agencies that manage lands (and trails) in the state, but there's some good news mixed in with the bad. From State Parks to Mount Si and good news for Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program projects, read our recap from Olympia.
The legislature wrapped its second special session late in the day on Friday by finalizing the 2013-2015 Operating Budget, just three days before a state government shutdown.
The legislature made deep cuts across the agencies that manage Washington's lands, but there's some good news mixed in with the bad. See the rundown below, and a huge thanks to everyone who raised your voice in support of Washington's trails.
State Parks open for Fourth of July fun
If the government had shut down, the governor's budget office would have closed Washington State Parks right before the Fourth of July holiday. If you have State Parks reservations for this week, you can now enjoy them without worry.
Washington State Park funding comes up short
Perhaps the best way refer to the 2013-2015 state parks funding proposal is as a frankenbudget.
For the 2014-2015 biennium, State Parks will receive $8.5 million in general fund, plus $11.7 million in diverted litter tax funds, for a total of $20.2 million in direct state funding. That's $7 million less than requested by the agency, $3.5 million less than Governor Inslee's proposal, and an $800,000 cut from last biennium's appropriation.
The bottom line: State Parks was requesting just enough money to stay afloat and keep parks open. We're concerned that these cuts will mean more layoffs and, potentially, State Park closures.
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program a win for trails statewide!
The highlight of the end of the session is $65 million appropriated to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which will fund a number of great recreation and conservation proposals statewide.
While WWRP has great friends in Olympia, there was a real possibility that the program could have been significantly underfunded in the ongoing negotiations between the House, Senate and Governor.
> Check out the list of WWRP projects funded this year, which includes plenty of great news all over the state for hikers.
Department of Natural Resources funding a mixed bag
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -- the agency that manages Mount Si, Mount Pilchuck, Gothic Basin, and many more critical recreation sites statewide -- fared reasonably well in this year's Operating Budget.
The big concern is the legislature failed to pass a Transportation Budget (which helps fund recreation). Since much of DNR's recreation funding comes from transportation revenues, we're putting heads together with our DNR partners to see what the next two years hold.
Thank you for taking action
Thanks to everyone who took action on behalf of our state agency partners. It was a roller-coaster legislative season, but we'll continue fighting for Washington's hikers, trails and wild lands in the days and months to come.