The government shutdown of 2013 reared its head in the Senate today.
Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation to compel the National Park Service to repay states that put up the cash to reopen national parks during the shutdown. Co-sponsors include Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah gave the NPS about $2 million last October to temporarily reopen parks critical to tourist dollars, such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore.
Congress retroactively funded the NPS after the shutdown, but the states didn’t get their money back.
Flake, Lee and Alexander brought the issue up to the Interior Department in a Feb. 3 letter. “It would appear that the National Park Service retained a shutdown windfall by keeping the money that some states provided to temporarily pay salaries and maintain park operations during the shutdown — both items Congress later retroactively funded,” the letter stated.
“We can likely all agree that the best scenario would have occurred if we had been able to avoid a shutdown in the first place. But we also hope that we can agree that those states, municipalities, companies, and individuals that came together to mitigate the damage created by one, should not needlessly continue to bear its consequences.”
They asked Assistant Secretary Rhea Suh to support legislation to pay back the states. Suh committed to support such as bill a few days later.
“I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill on behalf Arizona and the other states that stepped up to ensure public access to national parks during the government shutdown,” Flake said. “I look forward to its prompt passage.”