Saturday, January 2, 2010

Arizona: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, x2

Like most states, Arizona is facing an enormous revenue shortfall, but what sets them apart from their more sane brethren is that they seem to have no shortage of harebrained schemes.

Last season, Jason Jones of The Daily Show hilariously ridiculed a proposal to sell their state capital building for $735 million, with the idea that they could lease it back for $1.5 billion over the next twenty years. (Clip embedded, below)

Unfortunately one idea that didn't fail on its own lack of merit might best be described as the highway robbery of their state parks.

Granted, all but the wealthiest communities have always had a huge park maintenance backlog and its always been somewhat acceptable to slash their operating cash in times of need, but what sets Arizona apart is that taxpayer funds have become an increasingly lower percentage of their total park budget, culminating in the fact that in 2010, they weren't expecting any public money and had been planning to survive entirely on user fees.

So, you can imagine the surprise, when the legislature voted to steal $11.5 million (60%) of the monies they didn't contribute from the budget which went into effect, six months ago.

Renee Bahl, director of Arizona State Parks is now charged with deciding which parks to close.

Her instinct may be to shutter those which generate no fees or operate at a loss, but because fences may need to be erected and security systems installed at some historic structures, she's facing a modern day Morton's fork; There's no good outcome, no matter which way she goes and naturally because many communities rely on their parks to generate tourist revenue -- lower tax income, failing businesses, a depressed local economy and consumer ill will are sure to follow.

Not to mention that historically, Arizona is loath to replace what they've already stolen.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona State Capitol Building for Sale
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Follow-Up: They closed nine and kept five, some with reduced hours/services and some with local contributions.
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