The legislation will ensure that all money earned through external sources, like entrance fees, merchandise sales, hunting and fishing licenses and golf course fees, will stay with the department.
Over the last five years, $15 million has been transferred from state parks to the General Fund – in all, $30 million has been transferred from the department to fund other agencies. A move last year to take roughly $3 million from the department caused multiple parks to close, causing an uproar among the populace.
“State parks have little incentive to provide great service to the public if the money earned is taken away each year by the Legislature,” Scofield said in a press release. “My proposal will allow the state parks to make plans for long-term improvements, since they will now have a predictable cash flow and can attract more visitors to Alabama. ”
However, the bill specifies that if the State Parks Revolving Fund reaches more than $50 million in a fiscal year, the sales and use and cigarette tax money reserved for the system will be reduced in the following year. The money saved from doing so would be directed to the state’s General Fund.
“Currently, state parks in Alabama are mostly self-funded through the services they provide to the public. Unfortunately, over the past five years the Legislature has raided the Department of Conservation and transferred money to the General Fund for other purposes,” Scofield said in the release. “State parks are important to Alabamians and the parks should be able to keep the money they earn.”
After its passage in the Senate, the bill will be taken up by a Senate committee before it’s considered by the full House.