Governor Releases Supplemental Budget
The slow and difficult economic recovery that we're experiencing continues to take its toll on Washington state. Governor Gregoire's supplemental budget, released on
Wednesday, makes deep and painful cuts to critical education and health and human services programs. The repercussions of those cuts will be felt for years to come. Natural Resource agencies, like the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which were slashed dramatically last session, have seen smaller budget reductions.
DNR, the agency that manages Mount Si, Tiger Mountain, Mount Pilchuck and Gothic Basin, was hit with a 60% cut to recreation programs last year. It's a testament to the imagination and hard work of DNR managers that this cut did not result in catastrophe. Even so, agency staff are still grappling with the loss of those funds, and responding by planning for the closure of 53 of their 148 recreation sites. They're reducing services at others and delaying long-needed planning on still more.
The Governor's proposed supplemental budget for 2010 still cuts the agency, but at a much smaller level than we'd braced ourselves for. The $278,000 cut from the 2009 biennial appropriation represents roughly 4% of DNR's recreation line item. That will force the agency to close some 22 primitive recreation sites and sideline one law enforcement officer. On the other side of the equation, $200,000 in ORV account funding has been reappropriated, which should shave the number of developed site closures from 53 to 40. These are small gains offset by losses, but Governor Gregoire and the state legislature are trying to decide how to handle a $2.6 billion budget deficit layered on top of the $9 billion gap from last year. Of course, the state legislature still has to take its whack at the budget, and they'll likely change it considerably. WTA will be working to defend the budget from cuts at the legislative level.
Finally, State Parks have emerged relatively unscathed, with cuts totaling around $800,000. It is unlikely that parks will have to be closed to respond to these cuts, but, again, a lot depends on what the legislature does with the Governor's proposal.
While DNR's budget situation is not as dire as we'd feared it might be, the agency is still hobbled by massive cuts from last session. And WTA is very concerned that the legislature might do further damage to DNR's limping recreation program when it addresses the Governor's proposal in the upcoming session. That's why it's imperative that the legislature find ways to restore the $278,000 cut to DNR's recreation appropriation.
In the coming weeks, WTA will be working with DNR staff to understand exactly what impact the Governor's budget will have on landscapes near and dear to hikers' hearts. We encourage you to contact your legislator and encourage them to be creative in restoring the $278,000 cut. Also, please sign up for Hiker Lobby Day, where you'll be able to send that message in a face-to-face meeting with you legislators.