A transaction fee to drive into a state park?

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by ROBERT MAK / KING 5 NEWS

KING5.com

Posted on June 30, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 30 at 11:24 AM

State introduces a "transaction fee" to use a state park To some lawmakers' suprise, there's no way to buy the state's new $30 "Discover Pass" for $30. Transaction and dealer fees add 16% to the cost of the annual pass.

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"Well, it's not acceptable to me and I tell you what, I'm going camping next week and I need this permit and I'm not paying 35 dollars for it. So if they haven't figured out the problem, they're going to have to figure it out by the time I get out there," Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, tells KING 5.

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To raise money, the state legislature created the new "Discover Pass." Starting July 1, if you drive into a state park, your VEBHICLE must have the new pass or you could face a $99 penalty. The pass gives you statewide access to parks and natural areas, or you can buy a day permit for $10. If you purchase the pass at a local sporting goods store, you might expect to pay an extra fee.

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But you'll also pay more on the state Web site--a $3 transaction fee is built in, and when you check out, an additional $2 dealer fee is tacked on. Total bill: $35.

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"It is one of the realities of doing business in modern times, lots of people who handle ticketing and passes and that kind of thing have additional fees attached," said Virginia Painter, spokesperson for Washington State Parks.

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Some state lawmakers are pretty surprised. The legislation they approved spelled out "thirty dollars" for the annual pass, and "ten dollars" for the single-day pass (which in reality is $11.50 with additional fees). State Sen. Kevin Ranker, who sponsored the legislation, says it was his understanding that any transaction costs would be built into the $30, not passed along to parks users. "We promised $30," Ranker said.

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Washington State Parks says this is the same system used for years to sell fishing and hunting licenses, and they have always charged extra transaction and dealer fees. The state says it's the same as buying concert tickets--you don't pay face value. "The reason is, the vendor who's handling the sales, this is a private business, that we contract with through fish and wildlife, and they have to make their money, it costs them to produce this thing," Painter said. The state says there will be a way to avoid extra fees starting this fall, if you buy the discover pass when renewing your car tabs. But for now, if you want to comply with the law this summer, you have no choice but to pay the extra five dollars.

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