The Facts (Brazoria County) | By Marqus Williams
Revenue intended to go toward supporting Texas parks, wildlife and historical agencies hasn’t been allocated appropriately, a problem voters can change under Proposition 5 on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Proposition 5 requires all revenue coming from the state sales tax on sporting goods to go directly toward the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
“The state parks and historic sites were intended to be funded by sporting goods, but unfortunately, not all the revenue has gone to that,” former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons said. “This constitutional amendment is the only way to guarantee that revenue goes directly to that.”
For more than two decades, revenue from that specific tax has been split between its intended purpose and the general fund, and the legislature has used it for other purposes.
“In 1993, the legislature passed the Sporting Goods Sales Tax that would provide a consistent stream of revenue towards the parks and historical agencies. The only problem was 60 percent of that went toward the general revenue,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation media spokeswoman Jenifer Sarver said.
In its first 25 years, the sporting goods sales tax generated $2.5 billion worth of revenue from sporting goods, but only 40 percent of went back to the state parks and historical agencies, according to the Texas Coalition of State Parks. That has left the two state agencies short of the money it needs for maintenance and improvements to their sites, Sarver said.
“There is $800 million worth of listed projects in deferred maintenance projects that have been put on hold because the departments don’t have the money to fund it,” Sarver said.
The original idea for the sporting goods tax is a smart one, she said.
“It’s a great way for revenue because money is coming from people who actually use the parks and it allows the state to update and modernize the parks and get the facilities up to standard,” Sarver said.
The Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC has generated more than $640,000 in donations to support the campaign and bring change for the natural areas of Texas.
“The contributions were spent on educating people and spreading awareness for the voting by any way we could,” Sarver said.
Legislation to put the proposed constitutional amendment passed both houses overwhelmingly, with only one opposing vote in each chamber.
Early voting will be Oct. 21 to Nov. 1. Election Day will be Nov. 5.