GOP senators propose free use of state parks

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By CAMERON SHEPPARD

WNPA News Service

OLYMPIA — Residents and visitors will get a break if lawmakers approve a proposal to do away with Discover Pass fees for using state parks.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, have co-sponsored SB 6174, which would no longer require park visitors to pay $10 for a one-time parking permit, or buy the $30 annual parking Discover Pass.

Sen. Schoesler is critical of the tax proposals voted in last year’s legislative session. He said the results of the tax advisory votes on last November’s ballot, as well as the car tab initiative approved by the state’s voters, were evidence that voters favor less taxation.

“We are not listening to the taxpayer,” Schoesler said.

Schoesler said eliminating taxes on diapers and feminine hygiene products has been considered by the Legislature, but he believes providing free access and use to state parks would be beneficial to a wider range of people.

Pay-to-play policies including the Discover Pass for access to state-owned land were instituted in 2011, following the recession. The bill claims these fees are responsible for a decline in park attendance by an average of 7 million visitors a year when compared to the visitation rates of the two years prior to the enactment of the Discover Pass.

The proposed bill stipulates that park operating revenue losses caused by getting rid of user fees at state parks would be offset by the state’s general fund.

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