State, local leaders support Amendment 2

By BRIANA HARRIS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, Pelham Mayor Gary Waters and community leaders spoke in support of Amendment 2 during an event sponsored by Alabama State Parks Partners at Oak Mountain State Park on Thursday, Oct. 27.

If passed by Alabama voters during the general election on Nov. 8, Amendment 2 will ensure that funding earmarked for state parks remain in the state parks budget. The amendment will prevent those funds from being deposited into the general fund.

In 2011 legislation was passed that allowed Alabama lawmakers to transfer funds from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, under which state parks fall, and into the general fund.

Since 2012, Alabama’s state parks have lost $15 million of their budget to the general fund. As a result, five state parks shut down. Three of the five were able to reopen through partnerships with municipal governments. Parks continue to struggle to keep up with maintenance and upgrades.

Alabama state parks bring in all of the money needed to fund themselves. State parks have had an average budget of $37 million over the past five to seven years. Of that, about $8 million comes from a cigarette and use tax from the state.

State parks generate $30 million to $32 million on their own every year, which is enough to properly maintain the parks.

Waggoner, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said the state shouldn’t be taking self-generated funds from the park.

Waters added that state parks wouldn’t remain successful if their funds continue to be siphoned.

“They can’t project what their income will be because they never know how much of their money will be taken,” Waters said. “You can’t run a successful business without having a good idea of how much money you have coming in. If we can secure a leveled source of funding, our state parks will only get better.”

Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks director, said confusion about the bill comes from not being properly informed.

“There’s a misconception about privatization that comes from an error on the absentee ballot,” Lein said. “Only the last paragraph, which addresses concessions, was included on the absentee ballot so people thought it was all about concessions.”

Lein said the error has now been corrected for the ballots for the general election on Nov. 8.

These paragraphs for Amendment 2 will appear on ballots on Nov. 8:

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to prohibit any monies from the State Parks Fund, the Parks Revolving Fund, or any fund receiving revenues currently deposited in the State Parks Fund or the Parks Revolving Fund, and any monies currently designated pursuant to statute for the use of the state parks system from being transferred for another purpose other than the support, upkeep, and maintenance of the state parks system.”

“Notwithstanding, in the event that guest revenues to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceed the threshold of $50 million (as annually adjusted based on increases in the consumer price index) in a fiscal year, the sales and use and cigarette tax revenue distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be reduced in the following fiscal year. The amount of the reduction shall correspond to the amount of guest revenue to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceeding the threshold. The amount of tax revenue not distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be distributed to the General Fund.”

“Proposing an amendment to Amendment 617 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the option to provide for the operation and management, by non-state entities, of hotels, golf courses, and restaurants at any applicable state parks in Alabama.”