Governor Inslee's Budget Proposes Strong Investment in Outdoor Recreation (WA)

posted December 20, 2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

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This past week Washington Governor Jay Inslee released his state budget. While the Governor has highlighted his top priorities as addressing education and mental health, his budget recognizes the importance of outdoor recreation. As a kayaker and outdoor enthusiast himself, the Governor recognizes that investment in outdoor recreation is good for the state economy (a $22 billion industry that generates significant tax revenue for the state), promotes a healthy active lifestyle, and is a defining character of the quality of life we enjoy in Washington State.
A highlight of the state budget is the $100 million commitment to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Earlier this year American Whitewater joined with our partners in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition to request $120 million for this program and the Governor's budget represents a strong commitment towards our aspirational ask.
For State Parks, the budget invests in needed maintenance, proposes to extend the litter tax that provides critical funding for State Parks, and invests in projects for new State Parks including Nisqually State Park where we have been working to secure improved river access (currently the road providing access to the river is gated 1.5 miles from the river).
For Department of Natural Resources, the proposed budget proposes a significant investment of over $2 million in capital and operating funds for the Teanaway Community Forest. The river flowing through this new public forest, recently acquired and saved from private development, is enjoyed for whitewater recreation during the spring snowmelt; we are pleased to see the commitment to restore the land and enhance the quality of the recreational experience.
For Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the budget commits to enhanced investment in prevention and response to Aquatic Invasive Species that we strongly support while removing the proposal for a new $5 user fee for kayakers and canoeists pending a more comprehensive assessment of user fees for outdoor recreation.
Other key investments including an enhanced commitment to get kids outside by doubling funding to No Child Left Inside, an increase in funding for the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, and for urban trail enthusiasts a proposal to extend the Eastside Rail Corridor trail with a $5 million investment in the Wilburton Trestle.
Realizing these commitments to outdoor recreation in the Governor's budget will require a reassessment of how revenue is generated. On the revenue side, new proposals include, a new carbon tax on the state’s biggest pollution sources, a 1% increase in the Business and Operations services tax (with a lifting of the tax credit threshold to $100k, eliminating taxes for over 30k small businesses), a new capital gains tax that would impact the states 30k wealthiest individuals, and elimination of school levy property taxes, lowering property taxes for 75% of Washington households. If these efforts are unsuccessful, we will likely see budget cuts to outdoor recreation and increased pressure for additional reliance on user fees and a piecemeal and inefficient approach to funding outdoor recreation.
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012