President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal may have faced criticism for draining federal funding from environmental protection efforts, welfare programs and the arts, but it may have one beneficiary with which Trump himself is familiar: the hotel industry.
If approved in its present state, the budget could provide private hotels based in national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone with tens of millions of dollars each for inflated, taxpayer-funded maintenance needs, the Center for Western Priorities, a progressive think tank based in Denver, found.
The National Park Service allocates federal funding for maintenance of its roads and other infrastructure, including profit-making hotels, each year, and in fiscal year 2015, the NPS reported that backlog for deferred maintenance payments reached $11.93 billion. Trump’s budget calls for ensuring “that the National Park Service assets are preserved for future generations by increasing investment in deferred maintenance projects.”
The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, found in February that the cost of the backlogged maintenance work considered “serious enough for the agency to consider it a priority for necessary maintenance” was only $1.3 billion—a little over a tenth of the total. CAP also reported that the NPS had set aside $389 million for maintenance of “concessionaire-occupied and -operated facilities”—in other words, hotels and gift shops.
In its report, the Center for Western Priorities listed the beneficiaries of that $389 million in private deferred maintenance, starting with Yosemite National Park, whose Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel, was slated to receive $31 million of the park’s $74.8 million in private maintenance.
“The ‘skinny budget’ is a double giveaway,” Center for Western Priorities Media Director Aaron Weiss said in a press release. “If President Trump gets anything close to his budget wishes, he will clear the way for trophy homes inside our national parks, while sending money instead to private hotel owners who ought to be paying for their own deferred maintenance projects.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the headquarters of the Center for Western Priorities. It is located in Denver.