Additional cuts to public services
The continuing effects of the Great Recession -- along with Congress' near-failure to raise the nation's debt ceiling for the first time ever, damaging America's credit rating -- may soon be taking their toll at the state level in the form of additional reductions in public services.
Last Monday, Gov. Chris Gregoire warned the directors of the state’s agencies to plan to reduce services as much as 10 percent to make up a potential $1.7 billion shortfall. If the cuts become necessary, they would take effect no later than January.
This would be on top of the $4 billion reduction in public services that the Legislature approved just a few months ago.
‘Discover Pass’ may be refined
The Discover Pass, the Legislature’s solution to the lack of funding to maintain state parks and recreation areas, has drawn criticism for its lack of transferability. That is, the pass applies only to the vehicle for which it was purchased and cannot, say, be shared among family members who use a different vehicle for a different trip.
That’s a reasonable concern in an age where the average household has multiple vehicles and families might not always want to use the same vehicle for all their trips. But it’s important to remember why the pass was designed not to be transferable: If neighbors or other friends shared their passes to avoid the purchase fee, the state would not generate the revenue needed to maintain our parks. And that’s the whole point of the pass — without this needed revenue, we would have no option but to shutter the beloved parks that are so integral to our Washington lifestyles.
There are already efforts afloat to persuade the agencies that administer the passes to make them transferrable between vehicles within a family. In addition, the Senate Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee is monitoring the Discover Pass program, tracking users’ concerns and studying legislative options to address those concerns. Staff is also tracking the level of revenue raised by the pass and will project potential fiscal impacts of changes to the current pass structure.
It’s vital that we keep our parks open and affordable for all Washingtonians, and the Discover Pass is doing that — but that doesn’t mean the program can’t be improved. In the coming months, the state will continue to look at ways to improve the pass when the Legislature convenes in January.