Administrative Transfers “Killing” State Parks

State HouseDepartment of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy did not mince words during his agency’s budget hearing on Thursday, saying that the legislature’s administrative transfers of money from his department are “killing” state parks.

In advance of the 2016 state legislative session, budget committees are hearing testimony from state agencies on their budget needs for the next fiscal year. Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) made it clear the legislature will not be raising taxes in 2016, and there will be no borrowing from the state’s Education Trust Fund to fill budget gaps.

Commissioner Guy stressed the importance of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, saying that DCNR’s programs have a $3 billion economic impact on the state. That is in addition to the $400-$500 million economic impact related to state parks. Commissioner Guy also noted that hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are part of our “way of life” here in Alabama. DCNR does not receive money from the state General Fund, and relies on earmarked money, revenue from the state’s cigarette tax, and user fees from permits and park entry costs for its funding.

Despite public outcry in support of our state parks during the 2015 legislative sessions, the legislature continued its practice of requiring administrative transfers of funds from DCNR to the General Fund. Commissioner Guy addressed this, saying that while DCNR is willing to try anything to keep parks open and accessible, it will be impossible for them to do so as long as the legislature takes money the parks have earned and gives it to the General Fund for other uses.

State Parks Director Greg Lien said that there are agreements in place with local communities to keep Bladon Springs, Florala, and Paul Grist State Parks open to the public.

The 2016 legislative session begins on Tuesday, February 2. Send a message to your elected officials now to let them know that we love our state parks and we want them open and accessible!

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