October 7, 2019
KRBC (Abilene)/BigCountryHomepage.com | By Steffi Lee
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Supporters of state parks are traveling all over Texas to build support for a constitutional amendment that guarantees sales taxes on sporting goods will go to fund state and local parks.
Proposition 5, which will be on the ballot Nov. 5, would amend the constitution so funds from the sporting good sales tax can only go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
“In 1993, the legislators said, hey, we’re going to dedicate that sporting goods sales tax to the parks system and also to historic sites as well,” said Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart. “But over the years, the legislature hasn’t held up to that promise, quite frankly. They have diverted some of those funds and used them for other programs or used those monies for general revenues just to balance the budget and things.”
Rep. Cyrier led the effort to get the legislation passed in the Texas House.
“This is not producing a new tax and also, it’s doing what we originally said we were going to do, which is to use these funds for our parks systems and our historic sites,” he said.
Environment Texas joined the Austin Parks Foundation and the Texas Foundation for Conservation during a press conference Monday morning to encourage support of Prop 5.
“From camping under the stars at Big Bend Ranch to exploring the cypress swamps of Caddo Lake, our state parks make life better here in Texas,” Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas, said in a statement. “They protect the clean water we depend on and provide a home for some of Texas’ most wondrous wildlife, like the black bear and the leatherback sea turtle. But chronic underfunding has placed a strain on an aging system with outdated infrastructure. Prop. 5 is a historic opportunity to make sure our parks get the funds they need and deserve.”
Kevin Lenning, who frequently visits McKinney Falls State Park, brings his dog with him to enjoy the outdoors. He says he sees a need for the ongoing support of state parks.
“I know a lot of parks down on the coast, they get hit pretty bad with the tropical storms and hurricanes and a lot of the stuff there is kind of out of commission for sometimes months or a year,” he said.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, co-authored and voted for Senate Joint Resolution 24, which proposes this constitutional amendment. However, she says she didn’t support the changes when the Texas House amended it to allow lawmakers to shift funds from the sporting goods sales tax away from the Parks and Wildlife Department and Historical Commission if both chambers approved it by a two-thirds vote.
“While I continue to support the resolution because it is an improvement over current law, my belief was this amendment could undermine its original intent, namely, preventing the use of funds intended for parks and historic sites for other purposes,” she said in an emailed statement. “Accordingly, I voted not to concur with the amendment.”