September 18, 2019
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal | By AJ Media Editorial Board
Two West Texas recreational jewels, Palo Duro Canyon State Park east of Canyon, and Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway near Quitaque, will be among the beneficiaries if Proposition 5 on the upcoming constitutional amendment election is approved.
On Nov. 5, the public will decide the fate of 10 constitutional amendments. Passage of Proposition 5 will ensure a dedicated stream of revenue to support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. The measure is important for protecting and preserving the state’s numerous natural areas, water quality and history.
State parks and historical sites also provide an important boost to local economies. For example, Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons saw almost half a million visitor days spent at the parks last year. According to estimates, non-local visitors spent almost $11 million on expenses ranging from food and lodging to recreational equipment. In fact, total economic impact by the two parks was almost $12 million in 2018 – a significant increase from the estimated $8.5 million in 2014.
“The benefits of state parks are many,” George Bristol, former chairman of the state parks advisory committee said in a news release. “They add to the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of Texans and our visitors.”
By way of background, the Texas Legislature in 1993 moved to create a consistent funding stream for state parks. It designated a portion of the sales tax collected from sporting goods sales. However, the sporting goods sales tax historically has not been used to fund state parks and historical sites.
Between 1993 and 2017, Texas collected $2.5 billion in sporting goods sales tax with only 40 percent of that amount allocated to parks as funds were diverted to other items and to help ensure a balanced state budget.
However, in the most recent legislative session, lawmakers almost unanimously approved Senate Joint Resolution 24, which put Proposition 5 on the ballot. Instrumental in this action were Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. John Cyrier.
Proposition 5, which requires no new taxes or fees, is a constitutional dedication of revenue from the existing sales tax, meaning those dollars can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission on public parks and historic sites.
According to the chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the state’s parks generated more than $891 million in sales activity and had a $240 million impact on the incomes of Texas residents and supported more than 6,000 jobs across the state last year.
“State parks like Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons provide a significant public service by protecting and stewarding the state’s major natural and cultural resources,” said S. Reed Morian, commission chairman, in a news release.
The ballot language of Proposition 5 will read: “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”
We encourage voters to educate themselves about the recreational opportunities and economic impact of the state’s robust and diverse offering of parks and historical sites. Likewise, take time to learn about all of the constitutional propositions between now and November to ensure that every vote cast is an informed vote.