JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT ESTABLISHING AND FUNDING A STATE PARKS SUSTAINABILITY ACCOUNT.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Rep. Joseph P. Gresko, 121st District
Rep. John T. Shaban, 135th District
REASONS FOR BILL:
Establishing a state parks sustainability account for maintenance and operations would keep the parks clean and aesthetically beautiful. This would ensure that people continue to visit and use the parks for outdoor entertainment.
-Makes a technical correction in Section 1
-Strikes Section 2 from the bill
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Rep. Mary Mushinsky, 85th District: Representative Mushinsky overall supports this bill but recommends changes to it due to findings that park attendance has decreased over the past couple of years. She believes that the revenue from parks should go back to the parks and “the decision of FY 2010 must be reversed.” Lastly, this bill should be amended by deleting the 40 percent reduction of the Citizens Election fund that allows for clean elections.
Amy Paterson, CT Land Conservation Council: Ms. Paterson states that CLCC ultimately supports this bill with some changes. She makes it clear that the Council is “extremely concerned” about the proposed midterm cut to funding State Parks which would have the opposite effect on the State Parks System than this bill intends. Ms. Paterson concludes her testimony urging the “efficacy of the program is dependent upon the establishment of an associated dedicated non-lapsing account where new funds would go” to the parks maintenance and operations systems.
Cate & Dave Rauch, Meriden: In their testimony, Mr. and Mrs. Rauch explain that the state depends on business attraction and parks are included in this. They cited UConn's Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis' findings that “outdoor activities on state lands have an economic benefit of more than $1 billion a year and 9,000 jobs.” Within this, there is a much higher economic return rate for every dollar spent on a state park.
Chris & Kelly Callahan, Waterford: Mr. & Mrs. Callahan also referenced the UConn study on state parks and cited the same information as Mr. & Mrs. Rauch did.
Sidney Van Zandt, Groton: Ms. Van Zandt mentions problems with the state funding maintenance of its parks over the years. Based on the amount of people who visited Haley Farm and Bluff Point in 2014, she believes that this bill would be a “huge economic gain for all our towns.”
Starr Sayres, East Haddam: Ms. Sayres approves of the Citizen's Election Program and unclaimed bottle deposits as ways to practically and responsibly fund the state parks. She believes it is the citizens and elected officials duties to maintain the parks beauty to be proud of.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Eileen Grant, Board of Directors, Friends of CT State Parks: Ms. Grant has reservations about this bill. She believes it will have the reverse effect of what is intended. Among problems she lists in her testimony: more traffic, not making profit from seniors with the free fee due to changing demographics, patrons gaming the head count system, and families being discouraged by the per person fee fearing it's expensive. Ms. Grant feels that parks can't suffer anymore loss of revenue since them being “swept into the General Fund in 2010.”
Michelle Kiley, Vice President, Friends of Hammonasset: Ms. Kiley, like others, cited UConn's Parks study in her testimony. She also has similar reservations as Ms. Grant. Her biggest concern is people seeing this fee as a tax and being turned away, therefore she suggested other ways to raise funds within the parks and keep visitation up. One of these ideas was an opt-out box on vehicle registration forms that didn't pass during the last legislative session.
Reported by: Alexandra Rice