Home » From The Readers, Letters to the Editor » State Rep. John Kavanagh Defends Inaction on Arizona State Parks Funding Bill

State Rep. John Kavanagh Defends Inaction on Arizona State Parks Funding Bill

Sedona AZ (March 16, 2010) – AZ State Representative John Kavanagh read a Sedona Times Letter to the Editor criticizing him for blocking State Parks funding and submitted the following in rebuttal: 

Many people have questioned and even criticized me for not allowing HCR 2040, a state parks’ funding bill, to proceed out of the House Appropriations Committee, which I chair. HCR 2040 would impose, subject to voter approval, a tax of $12 on every non-commercial vehicle registered or renewed in Arizona, with most of the money going to state parks funding. In return, the vehicles would be given free access to state parks. There are many good reasons for not moving forward with this bill.

The principal reason to not hear HCR2040 is because, as originally drafted, it clearly violates the Arizona Constitution, which states that, “No moneys derived from fees, excises, or license taxes relating to registration, operation, or use of vehicles…shall be expended for other than highway and street purposes…” Even as amended, the monies raised by HCR2040 could only be spent on park road activities, which would provide little money to keep parks open and a lot of unusable money trapped in the parks’ fund. Offering HCR2040 to the voters as a solution to park’s funding would be like selling a new car owner a warranty that only covers wheel alignments and brakes. It’s grossly inadequate.

Beyond HCR2040’s legal problems, taxing every non-commercial vehicle $12 at registration time amounts to yet another tax on struggling Arizona families trying to make it through this difficult recession. Families that are trying to keep a roof over their head and bread on the table should not be forced to pay for other people’s recreation.

I also oppose this new vehicle tax because it is based upon poor tax policy. Unlike the connection between vehicle registration fees and highway construction and maintenance, there is no logical connection between registering a car and funding a state park. The only link is that most people drive to parks but, in Arizona, most people drive everywhere. This bill treats tax policy like “staking out” a mining claim, where advocates find a source of public funding and lay claim to it by finding a receptive legislator who will draft them a bill to claim it. While that process worked well for old West mineral rights, it is a terrible tax policy.

Another reason to oppose HCR2040 is because it will be yet another Prop 105 voter-protected funding source that the legislature would be near powerless to alter or divert to higher priority needs in tough financial times. HCR2040’s funding source would be just like the one in the current First Things First program, which holds over $350 million of voter-protected funds in a bank account that the legislature cannot touch.

However, I am sympathetic of the need to provide more monies to operate state parks, which are valuable state assets and magnets for tourism. I support Representative Ward Nichols bill to tap into land preservation funds to keep parks open. I would also be willing to permit a non-ballot bill to pass through the Appropriations Committee that would authorize a voluntary $12 donation via a check-off box on either state income tax forms or vehicle registration forms. That would have none of the problems associated with the flawed HCR2040 tax and be something that people could truly vote on with their own hearts and checkbooks.


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  1. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Dist 8), has almost single-handedly destroyed the State Parks System, trashing some of Arizona’s irreplaceable assets and wrecking an enterprise that contributes nearly $300 million annually to the state’s economy.

    The Governor’s Task Force on Sustainable State Parks recommended a permanent funding source for parks to avoid the raids the Legislature has repeatedly made on Parks funds. HCR2040 reflects that recommendation by applying a $9 yearly fee to be collected at the same time that auto registrations are renewed. In return, autos with Arizona license plates would be admitted free to State Parks.

    There is nothing unconstitutional about it. Our legal advice is that the Parks fee is not part of the vehicle license tax and does not violate Article 9, Section 14 of the State Constitution. The fee applies only to non-commercial vehicles and not to the many other vehicles that are licensed in Arizona. Besides, the registration process already includes an add-on fee for the Department of Environmental Quality that is not used for roads.

    Mr. Kavanagh changes his reason for opposing Parks funding when it suits him. He recently responded to Sam Campana, director of Arizona Audubon, that he prefers HB2060. That bill would take $40 million from the Land Conservation Fund to support Arizona State Parks and other agencies. But that would really be unconstitutional because the Voter Protection Act covers the Land Conservation Fund, and he knows it. He has told others that he favors privatization of State Parks, even though private operators would never touch two-thirds of the state parks.

    The Arizona State Parks Foundation is merely asking that state voters be given the chance to decide if they want to keep State Parks open. Mr. Kavanagh has starved the state park system to death without asking any voters, but he seems to have problems with voter decisions. Not only does he want to keep this decision from voters, he has voted to kill the Arizona State Parks half of the Heritage Fund (see Forty-ninth Legislature – Seventh Special Session HB2012 & SB1012) authorized by voters and he wants to repeal the voter-approved Land Conservation Fund so that the money collected to preserve open space can go to the bottomless pit of the state general fund.

  2. Michael Schroeder says:

    Kudos to you Representative Kavanagh. Privatize the state parks so those who use must pay. We all are tired of paying for things we don’t use, especially if the government has anything to do with it as government cannot run anything efficiently. The more the government schemes, the more the public rejects the status quo. We are broke, and we need to start acting like it.

  3. I am hopeful that Representative Kavanagh will resolve some of these issues with ADOT.

    August 30, 2014

    Representative John Kavanagh
    House of Representatives
    1700 W. Washington
    Room 114
    Phoenix, AZ 85007

    Subject: Is ADOT putting the taxpayer at risk?

    Dear Mr. John Kavanagh,

    Per your request and my inquiry, I am sending you a partial list of the outright irresponsible actions on the part of ADOT and specifically Mr. Halikowski-Director ADOT.

    1) I do not send this message in a mean-spirited manner but with the hope that Mr. Halikowski will man-up and correct the situations that have disgraced the hard working ADOT workers, ADOT subcontractors and improve the under-performing ADOT Adopt-A-Highway program.

    2) Yes, these are harsh words but if you consider the disgrace that Director Halikowski has allowed to occur on our three Arizona veteran’s highways, we as Arizona residents should be ashamed of our veteran’s memorial highways; what message does this bring to our veterans, tourists, visitors, residents, potential new businesses, etc?

    3) Over the past six years I, on behalf of many others, have reached out to Mr. Halikowski to no avail other than to put up with the “double-talking-babble” of Mr. Don Cassano-ADOTs Ombudsman and that’s being kind!

    4) So if Mr. Halikowski wishes to do so, he may Google “FOX 10 Phoenix and Gary Chamberlain” and review that newscast and the following observations that should greatly trouble him and give him a opportunity to remedy problems that damages the “image and economy of Arizona and appear to show that ADOT and Mr. Halikowski have respect for our Arizona veterans, many of whom work for ADOT!”

    5) In August of 2014, I photographed the following topics that should be corrected – for if ADOT is guilty of littering then ADOT gives visual permission to the residents to trash our highways.

    6) Numerous ADOT and ADOT subcontractors abandon, broken, thrown in the grass, items consisting of pedestals with lights, sand bags, sandwich board barriers, orange flags, 3”- 4” reflectors. What are ADOT’s and the taxpayer liability when a motorist pulling off the road hits one of these items?

    7) Un-mowed highway shoulders and medians with large brush not cut back. As I understand it, several years ago a drunk driver hit one of the large bushes and was killed and his family sued Arizona for millions of dollars and won the case because ADOT didn’t meet its own requirements to keep brush with a certain diameter “X” number of feet back from the highway. As taxpayers has ADOT set us up for another law suit?

    8) Why does ADOT allow the “Death Memorials” on the highway? In many cases, these highly fortified and reflective memorials have been reported to me as a hazard just waiting to happen. Don’t these items also represent a liability for the taxpayers if a motorist hits one or is distracted by their existence?

    9) ADOT has always maintained that only they or an approved sub-contractor can clean the median. So how is it that in almost six years that ADOT has never cleaned the median on Highway 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona and Highway 260 between Cottonwood and Camp Verde? I can tell you who has and that would be ME!

    10) Our Arizona Veterans Highway (I-17) between Phoenix and Flagstaff is a disgrace! I will point out that ADOT “does” keep the median relatively clean within the Phoenix city limits on the Arizona Veterans Highway up to (North) about MP-225 which is within the Phoenix city limits as I see it. Why are our Arizona Veteran Highway shoulders and median such a disgusting mess?

    11) Why did ADOT dumb-down the Arizona ADOT Adopt-A-Highway program in 2012 from requiring the ADOT “Permittees” to clean their sections of highway 3 times per year and more for a Scenic Highway to the new meaningless requirement of “as necessary or required” statement, what the hell kind of effective standard is that? Yes, these are volunteers but did they not “agree” to do something for the taxpayer in exchange for two highway signs? Is 8-12 hours per year too much to ask of these volunteers?

    12) Would it be asking too much of ADOT to raise their “Bar” for the ADOT Adopt-A-Highway program off of the ground and motivate and recognize the ADOT Adopt-A-Highway groups for their performance with a paper certificate based on frequency of litter pick-ups (4X Gold, 3X Silver, 2X Bronze and 1X Lead) per calendar year, supported by the ADOT required “Activity Report” that are monitored by the eight ADOT Permit departments …… would that be so tough? Wouldn’t this performance-based award certificate be a nice way to say thanks to the ADOT Adopt-A-Highway groups?

    13) I could write a book on the safety issues that ADOT presents to the taxpayer such as why do all of those ADOT trucks drive right by tire debris and other items in the highway? Is this a ADOT – taxpayer liability?

    14) How about all of the ADOT workers that talk about the shortage of mowing equipment and equipment in good repair? Why should eight ADOT Districts need to “share a mower? If this equipment is in short supply and poor repair, why does ADOT waste the taxpayer’s money on the “ADOT Highway Rodeo” events? Why can’t the challenge be to see which ADOT District has the cleanest, best mowed and least amount of highway brush?

    15) I hope that Director John Halikowski will seize these challenges and correct them while making our veterans, residents, ADOT workers and ADOT sub-contractors proud of what we see when we drive down our highways.

    Hopefully we can work together on this and make Arizona the “Gold” standard for how our highways should look and our ADOT Adopt-A-Highway program perform. Philosophically speaking Director Halikowski, you and those you employ, work for the taxpayers so make us feel appreciated and proud.

    Gary Chamberlain, FVUSA
    “America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs”
    Empowering our nation’s youth
    (928) 202-1186

    Office of the Governor
    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
    Executive Tower
    1700 West Washington Street
    Phoenix, AZ 85007

    Mr. John Halikowski Director ADOT
    206 South 17th Avenue
    Phoenix, AZ 85007

  4. Here’s a test for we taxpayers and our elected officials,

    Copy all of the emails shown into the “To” portion of the email and ask these folks to contact you regarding the “Subject Matter” your sending to all of them.

    Representative Kavanagh was the only one to respond and offer assistance to the issue that was sent out.

    Frankly, don’t expect an actual email response for most of these folks unless you actually phone their office and request a conversation with them.

    Representative John Kavanagh was someone that responded, offered and is getting involved in solving the issues about ADOT that were presented to him.

    Thank you Representative Kavanagh and veteran for your efforts.

    Gary Chamberlain, FVUSA
    “America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs”
    Empowering our nation’s youth
    (928) 202-1186



    Arizona House Members

    John Allen – jallen@azleg.gov – 602-926-4916
    Lela Alston – lalston@azleg.gov – 602-926-5829
    Brenda Barton – bbarton@azleg.gov – 602-926-4129
    Sonny Borrelli – sborrelli@azleg.gov – 602-926-5051
    Paul Boyer – pboyer@azleg.gov – 602-926-4173
    Kate Brophy McGee – katebrophymcgee@azleg.gov – 602-926-4486
    Chad Campbell – ccampbell@azleg.gov – 602-926-3026
    Mark Cardenas – mcardenas@azleg.gov – 602-926-3014
    Heather Carter – hcarter@azleg.gov – 602-926-5503
    Demion Clinco – dclinco@azleg.gov – 602-926-4089
    Doug Coleman – dcoleman@azleg.gov 602-926-3160
    Lupe Contreras – lcontreras@azleg.gov – 602-926-5284
    Jeff Dial – jdial@azleg.gov – 602-926-5550
    Juan Carlos Escamilla – jescamilla@azleg.gov – 602-926-5872
    Karen Fann – kfann@azleg.gov – 602-926-5874
    Eddie Farnsworth – efarnsworth@azleg.gov – 602-926-5735
    Tom Forese – tforese@azleg.gov – 602-926-5168
    Rosanna Gabaldon – rgabaldon@azleg.gov – 602-926-3424
    Sally Ann Gonzales – sgonzales@azleg.gov – 602-926-3278
    Doris Goodale – dgoodale@azleg.gov – 602-926-5408
    David Gowan – dgowan@azleg.gov – 602-926-3312
    Rick Gray – rgray@azleg.gov – 602-926-5993
    Albert Hale – ahale@azleg.gov – 602-926-4323
    Lydia Hernandez – lhernandez@azleg.gov – 602-926-3376
    John Kavanagh – jkavanagh@azleg.gov – 602-926-5170
    Adam Kwasman – akwasman@azleg.gov – 602-926-5839
    Jonathan Larkin – jlarkin@azleg.gov – 602-926-5058
    Debbie Lesko – dlesko@azleg.gov – 602-926-5413
    David Livingston – dlivingston@azleg.gov – 602-926-4178
    Phil Lovas – plovas@azleg.gov – 602-926-3297
    Stefanie Mach – smach@azleg.gov – 602-926-3398
    Debbie McCune Davis – dmccunedavis@azleg.gov – 602-926-4485
    Juan Mendez – jmendez@azleg.gov – 602-926-4124
    J.D. Mesnard – jmesnard@azleg.gov – 602-926-4481
    Eric Meyer – emeyer@azleg.gov – 602-926-3037
    Catherine Miranda – cmiranda@azleg.gov – 602-926-4893
    Darin Mitchell – dmitchell@azleg.gov – 602-926-5894
    Steve Montenegro – smontenegro@azleg.gov – 602-926-5955
    Norma Munoz – nmunoz@azleg.gov – 602-926-3042
    Justin Olson – jolson@azleg.gov – 602-926-5288
    Ethan Orr – eorr@azleg.gov – 602-926-3235
    Lisa Otondo – lotondo@azleg.gov – 602-926-3002
    Jamescita Peshlakai – jpeshlakai@azleg.gov – 602-926-5160
    Warren Petersen – wpetersen@azleg.gov – 602-926-4136
    Justin Pierce – jpierce@azleg.gov – 602-926-5495
    Frank Pratt – fpratt@azleg.gov – 602-926-5761
    Martin Quezada – mquezada@azleg.gov – 602-926-5911
    Bob Robson – brobson@azleg.gov – 602-926-5549
    Macario Saldate – msaldate@azleg.gov – 602-926-4171
    Carl Seel – cseel@azleg.gov – 602-926-3018
    Andrew Sherwood – asherwood@azleg.gov – 602-926-3028
    Thomas “T.J.” Shope – tshope@azleg.gov – 602-926-3012
    Steve Smith – stsmith@azleg.gov – 602-926-5685
    Victoria Steele – vsteele@azleg.gov – 602-926-5683
    David Stevens – dstevens@azleg.gov – 602-926-4321
    Bob Thorpe – bthorpe@azleg.gov – 602-926-5219
    Andy Tobin – atobin@azleg.gov – 602-926-5172
    Kelly Townsend – ktownsend@azleg.gov – 602-926-4467
    Michelle Ugenti – mugenti@azleg.gov – 602-926-4480
    Bruce Wheeler – bwheeler@azleg.gov – 602-926-3300

    Arizona Senate Members

    Ed Ableser – eableser@azleg.gov – 602-926-4118
    Nancy Barto – nbarto@azleg.gov – 602-926-5766
    Carlyle Begay – cbegay@azleg.gov – 602-926-5862
    Andy Biggs – abiggs@azleg.gov – 602-926-4371
    David Bradley – dbradley@azleg.gov – 602-926-5262
    Judy Burges – jburges@azleg.gov – 602-926-5861
    Olivia Cajero Bedford – ocajerobedford@azleg.gov – 602-926-5835
    Andrea Dalessandro – adalessandro@azleg.gov – 602-926-4089
    Adam Driggs – adriggs@azleg.gov – 602-926-3016
    Steve Farley – sfarley@azleg.gov – 602-926-3022
    David Farnsworth – dfarnsworth@azleg.gov – 602-926-3020
    Steve Gallardo – sgallardo@azleg.gov – 602-926-5830
    Gail Griffin – ggriffin@azleg.gov – 602-926-5895
    Katie Hobbs – khobbs@azleg.gov – 602-926-5325
    Leah Landrum Taylor – llandrumtaylor@azleg.gov – 602-926-3830
    John McComish – jmccomish@azleg.gov – 602-926-5898
    Barbara McGuire – bmcguire@azleg.gov – 602-926-5836
    Al Melvin – amelvin@azleg.gov – 602-926-4326
    Robert Meza – rmeza@azleg.gov – 602-926-3425
    Rick Murphy – rmurphy@azleg.gov – 602-926-4444
    Lynne Pancrazi – lpancrazi@azleg.gov – 602-926-3004
    Steve Pierce – spierce@azleg.gov – 602-926-5584
    Michele Reagan – mreagan@azleg.gov – 602-926-5828
    Don Shooter – dshooter@azleg.gov – 602-926-4139
    Anna Tovar – atovar@azleg.gov – 602-926-3392
    Kelli Ward – kward@azleg.gov – 602-926-4138
    Bob Worsley – bworsley@azleg.gov – 602-926-5760
    Steve Yarbrough – syarbrough@azleg.gov – 602-926-5863
    Kimberly Yee – kyee@azleg.gov – 602-926-3024

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