October 31, 2019
Corpus Christi Caller-Times | By Barbara Canales, Nueces County Judge
Every Texas voter has a unique opportunity on Tuesday, Nov. 5, to support Texas parks and historical sites by voting “yes” on Proposition 5. If passed, Proposition 5 will direct current sales tax revenues on sporting goods solely to fund Texas parks and historical sites without raising any new taxes or fees.
In 1993 Texas lawmakers passed a law to fund the upkeep and expansion of parks and historical sites. However, most of the money was diverted to the state’s general fund for other uses. Less than half of the $2.4 billion in sporting goods sales taxes collected between 1993 and 2017 was allocated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the Texas Historical Commission.
This year, a strong bipartisan legislative majority agreed that Texas voters deserved the chance to assure that state parks and Texas historical sites receive all of the funding originally intended.
Proposition 5 would add language to the Texas Constitution to dedicate revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. Funding derived from Prop 5 would protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites — again, while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.
Here in Nueces County, parks have both direct and intangible benefits such as attracting coastal tourism and maintaining clean water supplies for Corpus Christi and her sister cities in the Coastal Bend.
A recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department report, “The Economic Contribution of Texas State Parks” notes the positive impact parks have on our economy. According to the report, economic activity from park visitation statewide generated an “estimated $891 million in sales; $688 million in output; $426 million in value added; $240 million impact on residents’ income; and accounted for an estimated 6,801 jobs, paying an average salary of $35,320 per year.”
As Texas’ No. 1 Gulf Coast tourist destination, Nueces County deserves its share of those economic benefits and full, dedicated parks funding will more adequately meet the needs of facility maintenance, upkeep and the expansion of our parks and historical sites.
Supporters of constitutionally dedicated parks funding point out that Texas is increasingly an urban state in terms of where people live, while most of rural Texas is privately owned. There are only 640,000 acres of state parkland (1,000 square miles) which is less than one half of one percent of Texas’ 261,914 square miles, and last year 10 million people visited Texas’ state parks.
Dedicated state parks funding through passage of Proposition 5 will enable generations of urban dwellers to connect with the land and understand what it means to be a Texan. In addition to parks funding for outdoor recreation, the benefit to Texas historical sites is icing on the cake for native-born Texans and newcomers alike.
Texas’ lands and our unique history can and should be unifying influences as the Lone Star State exceeds 30 million people in the 2020 census. Please strongly consider voting for Proposition 5.
Barbara Canales is the Nueces County Judge. She submitted this guest column to the Caller-Times, unsolicited.