PHOENIX - 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 gives certainty to tourists and businesses hurt by the 11-day closure that ended Saturday.
The decision came as Brewer faced a deadline that was part of an agreement she struck 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.
Arizona is paying $93,000 a day to keep the canyon open during the partial government shutdown. The initial seven days plus the nine she added Wednesday means the state has committed nearly $1.5 million to canyon operations.
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 and the House awaiting their action.
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."
The state 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.
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.