Amending Texas’ Constitution, understanding the ballot

By October 2, 2019 October 4th, 2019 News

October 2, 2019
Navasota Examiner | By Connie Clements

Propositions 5 and 6

Early voting begins Oct. 21 and the Navasota Examiner will publish the 10 proposed Constitutional amendments over the next few weeks. The Condensed Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments, 86th Legislative Session for the Nov. 5, 2019 Election is published by the Texas Legislative Council and available at: https://www.tlc.texas.gov/docs/amendments/analyses19_condensed.pdf.A detailed analysis is available at: https://www.tlc.texas.gov/docs/amendments/analyses19.pdf.

Summary of Comments

The following comments supporting or opposing the proposed constitutional amendment reflect positions that were presented in committee proceedings, during house or senate floor debate, or in the analysis of the resolution prepared by the House Research Organization (HRO) when the resolution was considered by the House of Representatives.

Proposition 5 (S.J.R. 24)

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.

Summary Analysis

S.J.R. 24 proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution to automatically appropriate all state revenue attributable to state sales and use taxes imposed on sporting goods to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. The proposed amendment provides that the money is to be allocated between the agencies in the manner provided by general law and authorizes the legislature to impose limitations on the agencies’ use of the money. The proposed amendment allows the legislature by a two-thirds vote to temporarily reduce by up to 50 percent the amount of the money appropriated to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission and provides that the money appropriated to the agencies may not be used by the comptroller of public accounts for purposes of certifying the biennial state budget.

Comments by Supporters:

• State parks in Texas received a record 9.7 million visits in fiscal year 2017. Chronic underfunding of the state park system, however, has left many parks unable to safely and adequately accommodate visitors. The constitutional amendment will help to ensure that our parks have the resources they need to adequately fund deferred maintenance projects, maintain appropriate staff levels, ensure visitor safety, and expand to meet the needs of a growing population.

• Ensuring that the Texas Historical Commission continues to receive appropriate sporting goods sales tax revenue will afford the commission the ability to properly manage and maintain the many historic sites under the commission’s control.

• Although current law provides for the allocation of sporting goods sales tax revenue to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission, the amount of that revenue actually appropriated by the legislature to the agencies is often substantially less than the total amount of revenue derived from that tax. This discrepancy leaves the agencies underfunded and unable to engage in long-term planning due to ever-changing funding levels. Providing for the automatic appropriation of sporting goods sales tax revenue will ensure that there is a sustained and predictable funding mechanism for the state park system and the state’s historic sites.

• State parks generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic benefits for the state’s rural communities. Ensuring that the state park system is properly funded will allow local communities in and around state parks to continue to thrive.

Comments by Opponents:

• Providing for the automatic appropriation of sporting goods sales tax revenue to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission in the state constitution deprives the legislature of the ability to elect to use a portion of that revenue for other purposes determined by the legislature to be as important to the state as parks and historic sites, such as balancing the state’s budget or responding to an emergency.

• Amending the constitution to address this issue is unnecessary. The legislature has the ability to fund state agencies and programs at levels the legislature determines are appropriate through the biennial appropriations process, which is how the vast majority of state agencies and programs are funded. There is no need to treat the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission differently from other state agencies in this regard.

Proposition 6 (H.J.R. 12)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Summary Analysis

Section 67, Article III, Texas Constitution, governs the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The constitutional amendment proposed by H.J.R. 12 would amend Section 67(c), Article III, Texas Constitution, to increase from $3 billion to $6 billion the maximum amount of general obligation bonds the legislature by general law may authorize the Texas Public Finance Authority to provide for, issue, and sell on behalf of the institute.

Comments by Supporters:

• Increasing the amount of bond funding available for the institute is essential to ensuring the institute maintains its status as a national leader in cancer research and prevention.

• Without an increase in the amount of bond funding, the institute runs the risk of exhausting its available pool of money from which to make grants before the statutory authority to make the grants expires in state fiscal year 2022.

• A sustainable and predictable level of funding is essential for the institute to effectively plan for the future and complete necessary research.

• The institute is a noble cause worthy of increased state funding. The institute supports world-renowned scholars and cancer researchers, including a 2018 Nobel Prize recipient, who have produced meaningful and measurable positive results from institute funding.

• The benefits of increased funding for the institute outweigh the costs. The institute programs have helped improve health outcomes, produced numerous positive economic benefits, and generated billions of dollars in state economic activity, including by encouraging biotech companies to expand in or relocate to Texas and increasing job creation in this state.

Comments by Opponents:

• Doubling the size of the original commitment of taxpayer money for the institute unduly increases state debt.

• Although cancer research is honorable and necessary, funding such research is not a necessary state function. An increased bond commitment will necessitate interest payments and future appropriations, and that money could be better spent on other state priorities.

• The institute does not need an additional $3 billion in taxpayer money at this time because the institute has not yet exhausted its original funding amount of $3 billion.

• Instead of giving the institute more state money, the state should assist in crafting a plan to ensure the institute is financially self-sufficient and able to achieve longterm success without reliance on increased taxpayer assistance.

Source: https://www.navasotaexaminer.com/article/news/amending-texas%E2%80%99-constitution-understanding-ballot-1

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