Friday, 19 February 2010 00:00
Governor David A. Paterson’s state budget proposal is “a betrayal of the trust between his administration and our 150,000 members,” said Michael Fischer, president of the New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA). The NYSSA vowed to fight a multiyear, multimillion dollar state raid of the snowmobile trail development and maintenance fund.
“The money in the trail fund is critical to support trail maintenance activities,” said NYSSA President Fischer. “It is money paid exclusively by snowmobilers for costs directly associated with the state and snowmobile club responsibilities for the development and maintenance of the statewide trail system. The state’s attempt to take this money for other purposes could threaten the safety of the trail system and certainly the long-term viability of the trail fund,” Fischer charged.
This unprecedented sweep is being proposed less than two years after a previous attempt to take $1 million during the 2008-2009 budget process was avoided with the understanding by NYSSA and its supporters that similar raids would not be attempted in the future. Governor Paterson stated in a press release at the time that the state would “ensure that money from these registration fees will be spent in a way that specifically benefits snowmobilers... solely on trail maintenance and related program activities.”
If not amended by the Legislature, the Executive Budget will redirect $1 million from the Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund to the state’s General Fund each year, and expand the authorized uses by the state of these funds. This will have a tremendous negative impact on trail maintenance activities as the loss of these funds reduces the reimbursement rate clubs get per mile for the costs of trail maintenance. One million dollars represents over 20 percent of the total trail fund monies and is far in excess of what the state needs to maintain and develop the minimal trail mileage on state lands.
“NYSSA supports the efforts of the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Departments of Environmental Conservation in administration, trail development and maintenance, and specific activities that benefit snowmobiling in New York,” Mr. Fischer said. “We encourage OPRHP to continue to utilize this legitimate use of available funding to advance the sport and help provide a safe riding experience.”
However, NYSSA draws the line here and “expects and our members demand the responsible stewardship of the monies that we entrust to the State of New York,” Mr. Fischer explained.
In a letter to all state legislators alerting them to the issue and seeking assistance, Fischer wrote: “The thousands of snowmobile club members in your district need your help immediately to call the governor and the Division of the Budget and head off the anticipated snowmobile trail fund raid this year!”
Dave Perkins, NYSSA executive director, stated, “In recent years, NYSSA member clubs have successfully urged the NYS Legislature to raise snowmobile registration fees in order to increase the dedicated trail monies in the snowmobile trail fund. These increases were critically needed to keep pace with ever escalating costs to safely maintain the trail system. Snowmobilers and legislators agreed to these increases because these funds were to be dedicated to reimburse snowmobile clubs to maintain the trails, and support snowmobile trail development and maintenance activities carried out by OPRHP and DEC.”
Snowmobiling is an important component of State tourism creating much-needed jobs and generating vital revenue to many upstate and western New York businesses and communities. In fact, many out-of-state snowmobilers make it a priority to visit New York for its vast miles of scenic snowmobile trails, generating much-needed tourism dollars to the upstate economy. According to a recent NYSSA analysis of previous economic studies, snowmobiling contributes over $1 billion to the state’s economy each year.
Mr. Perkins continued, “Trail maintenance is an ongoing process for all snowmobile clubs that make up NYSSA throughout the state. These clubs take on the responsibility and the financial obligation to maintain the trails throughout the year. Snowmobilers who use the trail system are willing to pay for it but they are not willing to have their registration money taken by the Division of the Budget and used for non-snowmobile related activities. The law is clear that the fund is for snowmobile trail maintenance. The work that clubs have done on trails over the past 20+ years fully defines trail maintenance.”