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Scarce National Park Fee Money Will Fund Today's 'Salute to America'

The Trump administration's lack of concern for the National Park Service's growing maintenance backlog will be on display today, along with everything else.
July 4, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration Thursday on the Mall," reports Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, and Dan Lamothe.

The information comes via two anonymous sources familiar with the arrangement, in part, at least, the Trump administration has not been forthcoming with information about how it is funding the "Salute to America," as the event has been dubbed by President Trump.

"The diverted park fees represent just a fraction of the extra costs the government faces as a result of the event, which will include displays of military hardware, flyovers by an array of jets including Air Force One, the deployment of tanks on the Mall and an extended pyrotechnics show," according to the article.

Event planning has also raised the specter of corruption, as the White House is distributing VIP tickets to Republic donors. Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, is quoted in the article saying the arrangement amounts to American taxpayers funding of a Republican campaign event.

Trump's leveraging of National Park Service funds comes after his most recent draft federal budget proposed severe cuts for the NPS. From an article in March 2019 by Wes Siler:

The total NPS budget would be cut by $494,946,000. This includes cuts to the operations budget of $52 million, a $31-million cut to the National Recreation and Preservation fund, a $64-million cut to the Historic Preservation Fund, a $113-million cut for the construction and major maintenance budget, and a $176-million cut for land acquisition and state assistance programs.

As also documented by Siler, the NPS is wrestling with a $10.6 billion maintenance backlog, so neither those cuts, nor today's parade, would help the NPS escape its fiscal quagmire. Congress is unlucky to ever mimic the draconian cuts proposed by the Trump administration's draft budget, this year or any year. But this year or any year, Trump's draft budget is holds a mirror to the administration's unfiltered agenda.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 in The Washington Post
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