/ Modified mar 12, 2014 1:04 p.m.

Flake, McCain Want AZ Repaid for Keeping Canyon Open

State spent $465,000 to run AZ's biggest tourist draw while federal government was shut down in October.



Arizona U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are asking the federal government to pay back the state for the $465,000 it spent to open the Grand Canyon in October when much of the federal government was shut down.

The senators joined six others to introduced a bill that would require the National Park Service to reimburse the $2 million the states spent to keep parks open to avoid lost tourism income during the shutdown.

Arizona moved to reopen the Grand Canyon for several days during the shutdown, and Flake said everyone who visited the park still paid federal entrance fees. He said Congress reimbursed the Park Service for employees who worked during the shut down. He called that a windfall and said the Park Service should pass that money back to states that paid to keep parks open.

“So for the federal government to say we’ll keep the fees that were paid and say we’re not going to reimburse the state even though we received reimbursement for the times the parks were open, that just isn’t fair,” Flake said.

The secretary of the interior didn't want to pay the states back, Flake said.

“There was opposition initially, we had a hard time getting the secretary of the interior to admit that they did receive a windfall and that it should be repaid, but we persisted," Flake said.

But that has changed.

“We got a commitment from the administration that they would support this legislation and they would support the repayment of these monies and that’s what we’re doing here,” Flake said.

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