I rarely follow Alabama legislative matters....mostly because it's a fairly screwed up process and all worked up for hype and political agendas.
This week, AL SB260 is up for discussion. It's a draft to say that any and all money that the state parks pull in....stay within the state park budget package.....up to $50 million a year. Why is it so important? Well....to keep running the state with lousy budget practices....the dimwits in Montgomery tend to raid the budget to pay for bills. And sometimes....they dip into the state park money.....without saying anything to the public.
No one really got into this discussion until last year.....when they were seriously talking about shutting down a dozen parks and selling them off. That got people peeved and asking stupid questions. Oddly, the state legislative folks never answer any of the questions, and it appears that some of the profits that the parks were pulling in....simply wasn't there. You'd think an audit would occur, but folks quickly found cash and pretended that things were fine.....no closures at that point.
I've pretty much lost confidence in the Montgomery crowd in being able to run a simple operation like a state park system. It's not exactly rocket science, and half the parks are simply a boat launching point with twenty-odd picnic tables for the locals to have a Sunday afternoon event. There are a another dozen state parks in the system, which pull in a ton of money every single year.....with no issues in finding guests or golfers to come out and spend a weekend in the sun.
Last week, I read a piece by the state auditor for the state parks....Jim Zeigler....laid down the facts that five of the minor operations were closing....but they were likely to be picked up by local authorities or town councils....and would continue to be operated in some fashion.
Jim then went on to say that all of the parks left....could easily bring in roughly 90-percent of the money necessary to run them.....and if they just "tweaked" these operations....increase a few fees and ran them correctly.....the system would pay for itself. and the state (in particular, the governor) would not stand around and discuss closing them.
Twenty years ago....I'm not sure if anyone at the state level talked much about the economics of the park system or how they inject income into a local area for tax revenue. You'd think that some smart professor at one of the fine state universities would sit down and do a cost analysis over the parks and what they drive into each local economy.
Are we done now with the closure-talk? Maybe. At least for 2016.