If Washingtonians are going to pay more for nature, why not for culture?
Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, who introduced a bill Tuesday to charge $30 a year for parking at state parks, wants to amend the measure to add another perk to the permits: access to the state’s history museums.
Gov. Chris Gregoire proposes to mothball the museums in Tacoma, Spokane and Olympia to save the state $5 million over two years. She also has proposed eliminating the state arts commission. Lawmakers are looking for alternatives.
“I’m definitely trying here to find a way to keep them open,” said Van De Wege, a Sequim Democrat who co-chairs a group meeting in the Legislature that calls itself the Heritage Caucus.
Paying the annual fee would allow people to skip the museum’s admission of up to $8 per visit. Admission fees raise hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, said Washington State Historical Society Director David Nicandri, but Van De Wege’s proposal could raise several million.
That’s if it gets any traction. Asked this week about the idea, the sponsor of the Senate bill to create a $30 annual parking fee for state parks and forests, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, simply said: “No.”
It would make the parks proposal complex, Ranker explained.
Rep. Jeannie Darneille has a different angle on trying to keep the museum alive. The museum needs money; the University of Washington-Tacoma needs more space for classrooms, parking and a student union.
The museum could offer space for a growing campus, said Darneille, a Tacoma Democrat.
“Pacific Avenue is all that separates those two institutions,” she said.
UW Tacoma spokesman Mike Wark said the campus wants to collaborate with its neighbor and do what it can to save it.
While Nicandri was skeptical of the idea of a busy, noisy student union in the museum, he said the museum’s 220-seat auditorium would be ideal for classes.
The museum is also looking into how to raise more money through private means such as grants.
“I don’t see any one thing being kind of the magic bullet that solves the problem,” Nicandri said. “I see this kind of being a mosaic of different solutions, all of which contributes to getting the museum back to a level of funding that approximates normalcy.”
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 firstname.lastname@example.org, blog.thenewstribune.com/politics