Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, thinks that seniors should pay more to use our national parks. Currently seniors age 62 and older can buy a lifetime access pass for $10 -- allowing them to bypass entrance fees at national parks. Adults under 62 who purchase an America the Beautiful pass pay $80 and must purchase a new pass each year. This pass only provides free admission; seniors still pay for camping or RV sites if they stay in a park.
According to the article at CNN Money, "In 2012, the National Park Service sold 500,000 senior passes raising $5 million, the agency said. Doubling the seniors' pass to $20 could generate $10 million." NPS faces a $153 million budget gap so an extra $5 million would be a small drop in the bucket.
While most seniors could afford $20 for the pass or even $10 a year, one point I have to raise: Would NPS be able to keep that money? And for how long? In the past, parks and our other public lands have been allowed to generate revenue and that money either gets included in their budget and can't be used for the extras (like repairs to infrastructure that are so desperately needed) or it later becomes absorbed into the general fund.
I just read an article the other day about Congressional appropriations to airports in several states that have little or even no air traffic. If some of these pork barrel gifts were cleaned up and out of the budget, think what money we would have available to protect our parks and public lands - and other worthwhile projects. Don't get me started!
What do you think? Vote at our poll. Feel free to leave a comment below. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak