For The Week Of April 25, 2005
Posted on April 22, 2005
Last week I joined President Bush on his visit to East Tennessee to celebrate National Park Week and Earth Day. The president was there to encourage volunteerism and to say that he has lived up to his commitment to spend $5 billion on the national park backlog. While I commend him for that, there is a lot more work to do. We have 2,100 volunteers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we’ve had events in the Smokies to raise $8 million to support the park, but the park says that is just the beginning. It has $180 million worth of needs, yet over the next 5 years the federal budget will only provide about $35 million. To address these critical maintenance and operating needs of the Great Smokies and national parks across the country, I joined Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing the National Park Centennial Act of 2005. The legislation provides new funding for the National Park System through the year 2016 – the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service - by giving taxpayers the option to mark a box on their tax returns each year that would send a contribution to a National Park Centennial Fund. Today, taxpayers can contribute $3 to presidential elections. This legislation is a tremendous opportunity for all Americans to stake a claim in the preservation of our parks. The question is: Why - when so many other people want to do the same thing for a variety of other causes - should we single out the national parks on our tax returns? I think I have an answer for that. Egypt has its pyramids; England has its history; Italy has its art; and the United States has the Great American Outdoors. And the national parks are the best expression of that. They are an essential part of the American character and they deserve this exceptional treatment. That’s why I’m delighted to be a part of this bill. Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) has put a lot of hard work into this issue for many years. I look forward to working with him and our colleagues in the House and Senate to pass this legislation.