By MARSHA MERCER
thought the National Park Service won the lottery.
The photos of Interior
Secretary Ryan Zinke holding an oversized check with Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent
of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, looked like shots of a lucky lottery
winner with a gazillion-dollar bonanza.
But this check
to the National Park Service was chump change – or Trump change -- $78,333.32.
That’s how much
salary taxpayers have paid Trump since noon Jan. 20. To compare: Taxpayers have
shelled out an estimated $10 million on Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago.
Trump vowed he wouldn’t accept a salary as president, but the Constitution
requires a president to be paid. The framers thought compensation would keep
the president independent and free of corruption.
Until now, only Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy gave their
presidential salaries to charity.
initially planned to make a splash by giving away his entire $400,000 salary at
year’s end. But the White House changed course and staged the photo op Monday
in the press briefing room.
Trump gave the
first installment of his salary to the park service, nearly everybody’s
favorite federal agency. The money will go towards repairing infrastructure,
But the sum will hardly make a dent in the $229 million backlog in
deferred maintenance on the 25 national battlefields. Overall, the
park service has a backlog of $12 billion in deferred maintenance on more than
400 parks and historic sites around the country.
proposes a cut of $1.5 billion, or 12 percent, from the Interior Department’s
budget. It doesn’t specify how much will be cut from the park service.
So, Trump came
across not as a generous benefactor to the park service but as a latter-day
John D. Rockefeller, handing it a few shiny dimes.
national parks have been growing over the past decade to a record high of 330
million visits last year during the service’s centennial celebration.
facilities were built in the early and mid-20th century and need
updating or replacing. These include rest areas and visitor centers, wastewater
treatment and electricity plants, staff quarters and campgrounds.
long preferred to create new parks rather than take care of existing ones, but
addressing deferred maintenance may be a rare area of bipartisan cooperation in
the fractured Congress.
Congress authorized an additional $90 million for non-transportation
maintenance and an additional $28 million for roads and bridges in the parks,
with funds rising every year for five years.
nearly enough to tackle the enormous backlog, park service officials and fans
Warner, D-Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced on March 28 the National
Park Service Legacy Act, which would direct $50 million annually in 2018, 2019
and 2020 for deferred maintenance at the parks.
The Legacy Act
would authorize increasingly larger sums until $500 million would be available annually
from 2027 through 2047. Costs would be paid through revenues from government
oil and natural gas royalties.
ranks fifth in the list of states with the greatest need for maintenance, with
a backlog of $800 million,” said Warner. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia
is a cosponsor.
include Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who
wants to help the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has a $232 million
Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures and it has
a tremendous economic impact on East Tennessee,” Alexander said.
service does have its critics.
Paul, R-Ky., chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on federal spending
and oversight, has called out park service projects in Pennsylvania and Alaska
congressional action is slow, there is something you can do: make a gift directly
to the National Park Service, or, if you prefer, to your favorite national park.
Shenandoah National Park has a $90 million
maintenance backlog, for example, and Gulf Islands National Seashore has a $21 million maintenance
like Trump’s, comes with a bonus. It’s tax deductible, if you’re among the 30
percent of taxpayers who itemize.
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