Addressing Deferred Maintenance in National Parks Without Raising Taxes

Carolyn Cavecche
CEO and President, Orange County Taxpayers Association

I am a National Park Enthusiast.  I have a passport that I bring with me to get stamped at each park I visit.  I actually plan vacations around National Parks that I have not yet visited.  This past year I added stamps from one of our busiest National Parks, The Great Smoky Mountains, and one of the least visited, Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

The National Park Service manages more than 400 national parks, monuments, military battlefields and historic sites throughout the country.  California is home to 29 national parks, including Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Sequoia/Kings Canyon.  In 2016 more than 41 million visitors enjoyed the national parks in California.

With millions of visitors each year and aging infrastructure, we are faced with seeking a solution that helps ensure these amazing assets don’t fall into irreversible disrepair.   It’s been estimated that California’s national parks currently have a backlog of more than $1.7 billion in deferred maintenance.  This includes repairs to sewer and drinking waters systems, roads, and electrical systems. Across the entire National Park System more than $11.3 billion is needed for deferred maintenance.  The longer this maintenance is put off, the more expensive it will be to repair.

I am pleased that even with the stark political differences we are witnessing recently, we are seeing a growing number of lawmakers from both parties find agreement on the best way to fund some of the deferred maintenance issues that are plaguing our national parks. And better yet, their agreement doesn’t involve raising taxes or fees to address these needs.

H.R. 2584, the National Park Service Legacy Act, will help repair and maintain infrastructure in national parks, as well as protect taxpayers from escalating costs due to increased deferred maintenance. Authored by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and co-sponsored by more than 50 Republicans and Democrats, the dedicated funding would be allocated from existing unallocated federal mineral revenues.

No additional taxes will be generated, and the monies allocated from the federal mineral fund would be prohibited from being used to expand our National Park System.  In others words, H.R. 2584 sends a strong message that we need to take care of what we have, and do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

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