The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday to establish a special account for the maintenance and operation of state parks.
The measure would be funded with money from unclaimed bottle deposits.
The bill, H.B. 5585, now goes to the House for a vote. The bill passed with 46 votes in favor, none opposed, and five abstentions.
No more than $4 million from the special account will go to help operate the state parks every year, according to Committee Co-Chairman Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford.
The legislation, as written, states: “Moneys in the account shall be expended by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for the purposes of maintaining, operating and improving the state parks that are under the care, custody and control of such department.”
During a public hearing on the bill, Sidney Van Zandt, of Groton, testified that the state’s commitment to funding its parks has wavered over the years. She said based on the amount of people who visited Haley Farm and Bluff Point over the years, she believes the bill would be a “huge economic gain for all our towns.”
And Starr Sayres, of East Haddam, said she believes using unclaimed bottle deposits is “practical and responsible way to fund the state parks.”
Connecticut has 140 state parks and forests, covering more than 255,000 acres of land. The overall state budget to care for the parks is $18 million.