PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday committed state money to keep Grand Canyon National Park open through Oct. 27 if the federal government remains shut down, an extension that gave certainty to tourists and businesses hurt by the 11-day closure that ended Saturday even as a budget deal was struck in Washington.
The decision came as Brewer faced a deadline that was part of an agreement she made Friday with the federal government to reopen the park for seven days. The deal required Brewer to give the park two days' notice if she wants it to remain open, which meant she needed to decide Wednesday.
Brewer's action came as Congress moved to break the budget deadlock that has shut down the federal government since Oct. 1, with the Senate poised to vote Wednesday evening and the House awaiting their action.
The state's commitment comes with no certainty it will be repaid once a federal budget is in place, but Brewer said she'll press the state's congressional delegation to support reimbursement.
The last time the government shut down, in 1995, Arizona also struck a deal to pay for the canyon to remain open. The Interior Department reimbursed the $370,000 the state spent about two months after the federal budget impasse was solved.
Arizona is paying $93,000 a day to keep the canyon open during the partial government shutdown. The initial seven days plus the nine Brewer added Wednesday means the state has committed nearly $1.5 million to canyon operations.
Businesses that rely on the canyon for tourist dollars were hurt during the 11-day closure. The canyon gateway town of Tusayan used $426,000 in town and local business money to help the state fund the reopening. Brewer is tapping money from the state Office of Tourism to pay the Park Service to keep the park open.
"I made the decision late last night that we're going to move forward to continue the opening of the Grand Canyon for the next nine days, for as you all well know, Washington doesn't do its job very well."
An average of 18,000 tourists a day flock to the park this time of year, and the governor's office estimates they spend an average of $1.2 million a day.
"When you see a revenue estimate coming in on a daily basis of $1.2 million, that's a lot of money coming into the state of Arizona, to that community, to the employees, and certainly to our tax coffers," Brewer said.