Should disabled vets get a Discover Pass discount?

From the desk of Columbian intern Lucas Wiseman:

OLYMPIA — Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, has entered the discussion this session about discounts for the state’s Discover Pass program, which helps pay for state parks.

Benton’s Senate Bill 5084, would reduce the cost of a Discover Pass from $30 a year to $5 a year for disabled veterans.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue against,” Benton said about his bill during an interview in late January.

However, Don Hall of the Washington State Federation of State Employees did testify against the bill at the public hearing Jan. 24.

“We appreciate the sacrifices our vets have made, but State Parks is struggling to stay afloat,” Hall said.

Hall, a park ranger, said his son is a disabled veteran.

“The impact is that the department will lose… the Discover Pass revenue we so desperately need,” he continued.

Hall said the Parks department requires $27.2 million on top of the funds it already receives from the Legislature.

The Discover Pass program was created in 2011 to help make the State Parks and Recreation Commission self supporting. In the past, state parks were funded from the Legislature’s general fund, with varying amounts of funding.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, said that he understands the department’s concerns.

“I recognize that there’s a fiscal impact of this bill, and that parks may suffer from that, and yet I don’t think anybody can deny that we ought to do something for our disabled vets,” Kline said.

Kline said it might be a more agreeable solution to increase the total price of a discover pass while keeping it low for veterans, so the department does not lose out on revenue.

The bill passed out of the committee on Feb. 18 and is now waiting to be heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

A Discover Pass grants a vehicle entrance onto publicly owned lands like parks and other recreational facilities. The cost of a state park day pass is $10.

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