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October 2019

EDITORIAL: Our take on Proposition 5 and other proposed constitutional amendments


October 22, 2019
Waco Tribune-Herald

In budgeting, it’s always smart to avoid employing taxes whose revenue is rigidly dedicated to a specific purpose. Such taxes can constrain spending in pressing areas, especially in a crisis such as an economic downtown or a natural disaster of the devastating scope of Hurricane Harvey. However, if state leaders do peddle taxes such as the sales tax on sporting goods — touted years ago as benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Historical Commission — then they should rigorously abide by those public assurances.

Alas, state officials have not kept the faith regarding the sporting goods tax.

With exception of the past two legislative sessions, most money from this tax has been used for other purposes, primarily balancing the state budget. The Texas Coalition for State Parks, formed to push passage of Proposition 5 now at the polls, says that from 1993 to 2017 the state collected some $2.5 billion in revenue from the sporting goods sales tax — yet only 40 percent actually benefited state parks.

Under such circumstances, state park officials find it all but impossible to plan for long-term capital improvements and development of new parks, some still waiting to be opened such as Palo Pinto State Park. Park officials never know how much money they’re getting from a tax supposedly created to benefit parks and historical sites.

Reports indicate state parks collectively face an estimated $800 million backlog in maintenance needs. Eighty percent of our parks were founded more than 30 years ago and Hurricane Harvey alone did $50 million in destruction to them. It’s important to note the key role state parks play not only in wildlife habitat and conservation but the state economy through hunting, fishing and tourism. Voting for Proposition 5 doesn’t mean new taxes, only ensuring existing taxes touted to the public as benefiting state parks and historical sites actually do so. We urge its passage.

Our position on other amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot:

Proposition 1: Yes. This amendment would allow municipal judges to hold more than one paid public office at a time, so they could preside over multiple municipalities, a boon to less-populated communities. While we appreciate the unique challenges faced by rural communities where it’s not always easy to attract properly trained officials, successful implementation of this amendment would nonetheless count on local officials ensuring a municipal judge from another community is sensitive to local dynamics and relevant situations that might impact how justice is best administered.

Proposition 2: Yes. Passage of this proposition would allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue general obligation bonds not to exceed $200 million to develop water and sewer projects in economically depressed areas of the state. With continued population growth, increasing industry demands and aging infrastructure, water remains a key challenge for Texas.

Proposition 3: Yes. Passage of this amendment would allow a temporary property-tax exemption on a portion of one’s property after formal declaration of a disaster by the governor. With the increasing devastation of droughts and storms in Texas, this is a step in the right direction. That said, one sees potential problems if the disaster strikes after the local tax rate has been set for the year versus before; protocols differ and are more complicated under the former scenario.

Proposition 4: No. Passage of this silly amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the Texas House and Senate, rather than a simple majority, before voters could decide whether the time is right for a personal income tax in Texas. This is political pandering of the worst sort, given it’s already nearly impossible to create a state income tax without voter approval. Plus, given legislative discussions about eliminating the much-hated property tax on daily school operations, approving this amendment could have the unintended consequence of eliminating viable options. Think twice, fellow taxpayer!

Proposition 6: Yes. Passage of this would hike the maximum bond amount for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which provides grants that advance cancer research, from $3 billion to $6 billion. Some argue the state has no business involved in cancer research, but given the huge cost of health care to taxpayers and the economic benefit such scientific research can yield in creating high-tech jobs across Texas, we see it as an investment with many dividends. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is the second largest public source of cancer funding in the United States after the federal government.

Proposition 7: Yes. Proposition 7 would double to $600 million the amount that can be transferred from the Permanent School Fund — an endowment trust that holds the fund’s investment returns and proceeds from state land and mineral rights — to the Available School Fund. This is in-the-weeds, procedural policy that nonetheless boosts educational funding. While we expect our state legislators to spend more time scrutinizing the School Land Board’s investments, the amendment offers a way to increase funding for public education without raising taxes.

Proposition 8: Yes. This constitutional amendment would allow a one-time allotment from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to create the Flood Infrastructure Fund, which the Texas Water Development Board would administer to fund and maintain flood-control structures across Texas, particularly in economically distressed areas. Given that climate-change evidence suggests we’ll see more flooding (whatever the cause), it’s far smarter to make a stab at preventing or reducing flooding than simply assuming steep recovery costs and much heartbreak.

Proposition 9: No. Here’s a questionable amendment that would exempt from property taxation precious metals held in a precious metal depository in Texas. We question the timing of this given that, as we noted with Proposition 4, conservative legislators contemplate overhauling property taxes. Additionally, this strikes us as a case of the state’s picking winners and losers in that it shows bias for precious metals over other investments and economic choices. Is there even a property tax on gold?

Proposition 10: Yes, of course. This allows for “transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances,” such as when such an animal retires. We’ve heard or read absolutely no arguments against this constitutional amendment other than utter astonishment voters even have to approve such a common-sense policy to the bloated, amendment-entangled Texas Constitution. Our only question: Whether this or Proposition 4 will garner more votes of approval on Nov. 5

Prop 5 would dedicate sporting good tax money to park funding

Lower Mckinney Falls

October 18, 2019
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal | By Jonathan Tilove

On a picture-perfect Monday at McKinney Falls State Park early this month, the advocacy group Environment Texas launched a seven-city, 13-park tour to promote Proposition 5, a state constitutional amendment that would dedicate revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods to maintaining and improving Texas parks and historic sites stressed by the state’s explosive growth.

“What a beautiful morning we have here at McKinney Falls State Park,” said state Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, who led the effort in the House to put the proposition on the ballot. “We can all say that Mother Nature will be voting ‘yes’ for Prop Five on Nov. 5.”

Maybe not, but Prop 5 has very broad support and no obvious opposition. Even the lone member of the Legislature to vote against Cyrier’s bill to put the proposition on the ballot — state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford — was a co-signer of the House bill he voted against.

But Environment Texas and allied environment, wildlife, conservation and parks groups are taking no chances that voters won’t approve an amendment that would not increase taxes but would seek to make sure that money already derived from the tax on the sale of bicycles, hunting gear, exercise equipment, fishing tackle and other sporting goods all goes to maintain park and historic sites as had been intended by the Legislature when it created the tax on sporting goods in 1993.

While that legislation allowed up to 94% of the sporting goods sales tax to go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the remaining 6% designated for the Texas Historical Commission, Cyrier said that from 1993 to 2017, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenue from the tax, but only about 40% of that sum went to parks, with the rest used to fill holes elsewhere in the state budget. Cyrier said the 95 state parks had combined deferred maintenance of about $800 million even as record numbers of people are making use of them.

Nearly 10 million people visited Texas state sparks in fiscal year 2017.

“Texans love their parks, and like parks here in Austin, Texas, parks are loved to death,” Colin Wallis, CEO for the Austin parks Foundation, said at the McKinney Falls news conference.

Cyrier said that while the tax money would be directed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it would also be used for grants the department provides to city and county parks. Proposition 5 would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to reduce the amount for the parks and historical sites, but could not cut the amount by more than half.

“Proposition 5 says, once and for all, we’re going to guarantee funding for our park system, make sure that they have the funds they need to preserve beautiful areas like this, to make sure that we have the campgrounds and the trails available for people to experience nature, and that keep them. in a good place,”Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, said at McKinney Falls.

Early voting runs Oct. 21 to Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 5.


Supporters Argue in Support of an Amendment to Benefit Parks

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October 17, 2019
WOAI Radio

Several groups held a news conference at Mission Conception to urge Texas voters to come out to the polls in next month’s Constittuional Amendment election to vote in favor of Proposition 5, which would provide badly needed financial help to state and local parks, without raising taxes, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

“It would say that the revenue from sales taxes on sporting goods, which is already supposed to go to state parks, would definitely go to state parks, and wouldn’t have to be allocated every year,” said Anna Farrell-Sherman, who is traveling the state prompting Proposition 5.

Odd year Constituional Amendment elections, which ratify measures approved earlier in the year by the Legisalture, usually have low voter turnout, and supporters of the parks amendment say the more people who show up to vote, the greater chance the measure has of being approved.

She says the Constitutional Amendment would guarantee that a measure approved in 2003 is followed. Since lawmakers in 2003 approved a bill mandating that sales tax revenue from the sale of sporting goods go to parks, only 40% of the $2.5 billion that has been collected has actually made it to the parks, leaving parks dangerously in need of repairs.

Sherman says local parks would benefit as well.

“It would go to local parks too, local parks can get grants from the state parks department, to help support them.”

The money would benefit recreational parks, lakes, cultural attractions, as well as historic parks like the San Antonio Missions.


A vote for Prop 5 is a vote for Texas parks

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October 20, 2019
Amarillo Globe News | By AGN Media Editorial Board

For the first time in a long time, those who enjoy the incredible beauty of Texas state parks have an opportunity to secure and stabilize funding for these precious jewels during the constitutional amendment election.

While there are 10 proposed amendments on the ballot, outdoor enthusiasts will want to pay particular attention to Proposition 5. It would change the Texas Constitution so that revenue generated from the sales tax on sporting goods is designated solely for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Historical Commission.

Early voting begins Monday (Oct. 21) and continues through Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 5. We encourage everyone to educate themselves about the amendments and exercise their right to vote. Turnout is typically sluggish for constitutional amendment elections. In the most recent of these, Texans in 2017 approved all seven proposed amendments.

Two of Texas’ most majestic state parks – Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons – would be among the beneficiaries of the amendment. The multipurpose parks receive substantial use year-round and provide uniquely inspiring destinations for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

These parks also are important economic engines that attract substantial tourism dollars. Most visitors to parks don’t simply pay an entry fee. They also eat in local restaurants, stay at local hotels and motels, purchase gasoline and shop locally.

According to the Texas Coalition of State Parks, Texas’ parks have a $900 million economic impact – beyond the recreational aspect.

“When people come to a park in West Texas, they’re not just paying an entrance fee, they’re going to be buying gas … and they’re going to pay to stay in hotels to attend the park,” Jennifer Sarver, a spokesperson for the organization, told the Texas Tribune. “If a park has to close, it’s the equivalent of a manufacturing plant. It’s economically devastating.”

Statewide, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials estimate the parks have nearly $800 million in deferred maintenance. They said increased use and $50 million in damage from Hurricane Harvey are the primary reasons. As any homeowner knows, ignoring little maintenance issues often leads to larger, costlier expense. For too long, parks across the state have had to delay addressing numerous projects, largely as a result of consistent underfunding.

That said, each park has its own needs and must have a dependable revenue stream that will not only allow updates and new projects to take place, but also enhance facilities so that they can also be enjoyed by generations to come.

By way of perspective, the state legislature in 1993 passed a law that allowed all revenue from the sporting goods sales tax to be used for maintenance, upkeep and expansion of the state’s parks and historical sites. While the previous two sessions have resulted in sizable budget appropriations for parks, those were atypical.

State Rep. John P. Cyrier (R-Lockhart) was among the earliest advocates for change, saying historically a lot of revenue that should have gone to the parks department instead was used to balance the state budget, according to the Tribune.

In fact, the average allocation averaged $34 million from average revenue of $95 million prior to the 2017 session, according to the Tribune, citing the Texas Coalition for State Parks, which has been active in pushing for the amendment. Typically, the parks have received about 40 percent of the sporting goods tax revenue.

Most importantly, though, Proposition 5 will ensure a promise made more than 25 years ago is kept. “It’s just as much about truth in taxation as it is about protecting parks,” Luke Metzger, executive director of the nonprofit Environment Texas, told the Tribune. “Every state legislator will say they support the parks. But when there’s an economic downturn, parks are one of the first things to get cut.”

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) joined Cyrier in supporting the amendment, saying the state’s parks must be a priority. “Supporting our state parks and historic sites is an investment in our future and provides a gateway to the outdoors for every Texan,” she said in the the Tribune story.

The beauty of Texas, whatever one’s pleasure might be, can be found in the state’s parks and historical sites. The legislature had the foresight long ago to put in place a funding mechanism to ensure these beautiful attractions were preserved and protected for Texans to enjoy today and long after tomorrow.

Proposition 5, if approved, will not have an immediate impact as revenue generated from the tax will be appropriated in the 2021 session. However, approving this amendment will bring long-overdue stability and certainty to the financial future of the state’s parks, and we urge the public to vote “for” and approve Proposition 5.


Make Parks Great Again: Prop 5 Finally Directs Tax Revenue To State Parks, Historical Sites

Lake Casa Blanca04

October 19, 2019
Tyler Paper | By Steve Knight

In this era of political upheaval there is one thing all Texas voters should be able to agree on: approving Proposition 5 on Nov. 5 is a good thing for Texas state parks, and in turn, Texas.

The thing is, Proposition 5 in a way does not do anything that should already be done. Texas has had a so-called Sporting Goods Sales Tax since voters approved it in 1993. It was always intended to go toward improvements and creation of state parks and historical sites. Somewhere along the trail a lot of the revenue coming in from the tax was re-directed to other places in a legislative sleight of hand, resulting in an onerous backlog of needed repairs at the parks and a lack of development of new sites.

Proposition 5, which voters can begin voting on starting Oct. 21, is a state constitutional amendment that simply removes the politics from the process, sending the revenue from the tax completely to state parks and historical sites as voters originally intended.

“State parks and historic sites have been underfunded for decades,” says Janice Bezanson, executive director of Texas Conservation Alliance. “The result has been inadequate facilities, insufficient funds to open new parks, and an $800 million maintenance backlog. Every weekend Texans and out-of-state tourists are turned away from the more popular parks. Proposition 5 will fix this problem.”

The Texas park system should be the welcome mat for the state. With facilities that in some cases are dated back to the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, there are a number of gems within the system that offer visitors a glimpse into the wild Texas.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates 95 parks and historical sites within its system. The Texas Historical Commission operates another 30. If approved, TPWD would receive 94 percent of the funding with THC getting 6 percent.

The park system covers more than 630,000 acres and attracts almost 10 million visitors annually.

According to TPWD, the parks system generated more than $891 million in sales activity and had a $240 million economic impact in Texas in 2018.

Closer to home, in 2018 Tyler, Caddo Lake and Martin Creek alone had almost 280,000 day visitors, 70 percent of which visited East Texas from outside the region. Those visitors spent an estimated $5 million on supplies and other purchases with an overall impact of $9.6 million in the region.

But the park system could attract more visitors and generate even more revenue if properly funded, something it has never experienced since the creation of the first site, Mother Neff State Park, in 1921. Many of the parks are bursting at the seams with visitors being turned away at peak times.

Texas currently has a population of 28 million with 84 percent being urban residents. Because of the lack of construction of new facilities the growing demand for parks is not being met.

The department has three new parks totaling almost 45,000 acres on the drawing board awaiting funding, and one scheduled for development in 2020. There is another 17,000 acres waiting transfer to the department for development. With Proposition 5 funding these sites should come online much faster.

Park visitation has also been impacted by delayed and emergency maintenance at some sites. In the last 10 years flooding has created another $100 million in emergency repairs. That has forced some parks to at least temporarily close or be partially closed until funding became available. With dedicated funding parks officials would be able to cover emergency repairs without having to delay regular maintenance.

Some of those regular repairs are not sexy, but things that come with old facilities meeting new demands. There are needs for improved electric systems in trailer camping sites, water systems and sewer systems.

TPWD’s 2019 parks budget was $86 million, $60 million of which comes from its current share of the sporting goods sales tax. Between 1993 and 2017, the state’s sporting goods sales tax has generated between $60 million and $165 million annually for a total of $2.5 billion. During that time, 60 percent of the tax funds were redirected by the legislature.

A legislative fix was attempted in 2015, however, the bill was not well written and what was thought to be a long-term solution turned out to be only one year funding.

While we may always debate right and left politics, there is no question that parks stretching from Caddo Lake to Hueco Tanks to Palo Duro to the World Birding Center-Estero Llano Grande should be properly funded by the money Texans already set aside for them.


Texas voters could stabilize funding for state parks with Proposition 5

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October 18, 2019
The Texas Tribune | By Carrington Tatum

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, along with outdoor enthusiasts, are looking to lock in funding for the state’s parks during November’s constitutional amendment elections.

Should it pass, Proposition 5 will change the Texas Constitution so that money generated from the existing sales tax on sporting goods can be given only to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

Texas’ parks were initially funded by a penny tax on cigarettes, but the Texas Legislature passed a law in 1993 allowing all of the sporting goods sales tax revenues to be used for the upkeep and expansion of parks and historical sites.

In the last two bienniums, the Texas Legislature appropriated between 89% and 100% of the sporting goods sales tax revenue to TPWD, but historically much of the revenue has been used to balance the state budget, according to state Rep. John P. Cyrier, R-Lockhart, who pushed the initial legislation.

The Texas Coalition for State Parks, a conservationist group created to push the amendment, estimates that the parks received on average about $34 million from an average tax revenue of $95 million before 2017.

“For too long, state lawmakers have entrusted the hardworking leaders and personnel of our state parks system with a very important job but did not give them the resources they needed to accomplish it,” Cyrier said in a statement.

Environment Texas, a nonprofit promoting green environmental policy, has been touring the state parks leading up to the Nov. 5 vote to raise awareness for the proposition. Executive director Luke Metzger said the parks have intangible benefits like promoting tourism in Texas and maintaining clean water supplies for cities.

Proposition 5 “would make good on the promise made to Texans in 1993. It’s just as much about truth in taxation as it is about protecting parks,” Metzger said. “Every state legislator will say they support the parks. But when there’s an economic downturn, parks are one of the first things to get cut. That’s why Proposition 5 is so important, to provide stable funding so [the parks] are not on this roller coaster of funding and subject to the politics of the state legislature.”

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who supported the amendment alongside Cyrier, said that until recent sessions, about 40% of the revenue from the sporting goods tax was usually allocated for TPWD. In a statement, Kolkhorst said that additional funding would go toward maintenance and repairs for the parks.

“Supporting our state parks and historic sites is an investment in our future and provides a gateway to the outdoors for every Texan. This legislation passed with bipartisan support because it is about delivering more maintenance and improvements to these sites, which in turn adds capacity for more visitors,” Kolkhorst said.

According to Rodney Franklin, director of state parks at TPWD, the parks have a combined $800 million in deferred maintenance, which has been exacerbated by an increase in traffic and an estimated $50 million in damage from Hurricane Harvey. Underfunding has limited the agency’s ability to prevent small issues from becoming larger and more costly.

“Nearly 80% of state parks were developed more than 30 years ago, with dozens of those established 70 or more years ago. Not surprisingly, basic facilities at state parks across the state have reached, or are rapidly approaching, the end of their design life,” Franklin said.

Texas Coalition for State Parks spokesperson Jenifer Sarver said deferred maintenance translates to broken bathrooms, long lines and reduced visitor capacity. However, she said, the parks have a $900 million economic benefit beyond their recreational impact.

“When people come to a park in West Texas, they’re not just paying an entrance fee, they’re going to be buying gas … and they’re going to pay to stay in hotels to attend the park,” Sarver said. “If a park has to close, it’s the equivalent of a manufacturing plant. It’s economically devastating.”

According to Cyrier, TPWD has received donated land that cannot be developed into state parks because of a lack of capital. Cyrier also said there is a generation of Texans who can’t experience the outdoors due to the growth of metropolitan areas. Sarver said underfunding has limited the expansion of state parks and narrowed access to natural sites.

“Texas is an increasingly urban state, so you have limited outdoor space. Texas is also vastly privately owned, so unless you’re a wealthy landowner, you don’t have access to the land. … If [people] can’t appreciate the land, it’s hard for them to understand what it means to be a Texan,” Sarver said.

The passage of the proposition will not issue immediate funding to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The revenue generated from the tax will still need to be appropriated in the 2021 legislative session.

Proposition 5 is one of 10 proposals on the Nov. 5 ballot. Early voting starts Monday and runs through Nov. 1. Texans can visit to verify registration and polling locations.

Editor’s Note: We want your help in reporting on the challenges Texans face when trying to vote — and the possible ways to address them. Tell us about the hurdles or problems you’ve run into while trying to exercise your right to vote in Texas by filling out a short form or email our reporter, Alexa Ura, directly at [email protected]


Five of Texas’ most beautiful state parks

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October 18, 2019
Reform Austin

It’s no secret that off-year Constitutional Amendment elections don’t draw the same crowds as midterms or Presidential elections. However, this year voters will head to the polls to decide on funding for Texas parks.

If passed, Prop. 5 will change the Texas Constitution so that money generated by sales tax revenue from sporting goods will go to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

Although state law already designates sales tax on sporting goods for state parks and historic sites, a significant portion of the funds are used by the Texas Comptroller’s office to balance the budget.

An independent review of state spending conducted by the Texas Coalition for State Parks — a non-profit conservationist group created to push for Prop. 5 — found that just about $34 million of average tax revenue out of $95 million makes it to the parks department and historical commission.

The coalition for state parks based their estimate on pre-2017 spending. In both the 2017 and 2019 sessions the legislature raised the amount of money allocated to parks and historic sites.

In the last two budgets, the parks department and historical commission received between 89 and 100 percent of the sales tax revenue available to the agencies. However, there currently is no guarantee that a future legislature will give the agencies the same amounts.

The proposed amendment will ensure that all applicable sales tax revenue from sporting good sales goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

Both the parks department and the historical commission say that the funding increase is necessary because state parks and historic sites are suffering from inadequate staffing and deferred maintenance.

Both the parks department and historical commission are facing budget shortfalls despite the fact that state parks and historic sites are experiencing increases in visitors.

With a proposed funding increase for parks on the ballot, it seemed like a good time to take a look at some of Texas’ more iconic state parks. In no particular order:

Caddo Lake State Park
A great place for kayaking and canoeing. Visitors can tour the 26,810-acre Caddo Lake, which harbors more than 70 species of fish and trek through the 50 miles of paddling trails in and around the park.

Big Bend Ranch State Park
While the neighboring national park is one of the most famous places in Texas, the state park offers just as many stunning vistas and opportunities for exploration. The park has 238 miles of multi-use trails and 70 miles of unmaintained dirt roads. Visitors can hike, mountain-bike, backpack, paddle, ride horses or explore by vehicle.

Lost Maples State Natural Area
People all over Texas complain about the lack of fall foliage—unless they’ve been to Lost Maples. The park is home to a special strand of Uvalde bigtooth maples, which brings visitors to the park each autumn to see the leaves change color.

Longhorn Cavern State Park
One of Texas’ most gorgeous limestone caverns, the park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park offers opportunities for hiking and picnicking, while the cavern itself is available for guided tours.

Garner State Park
With 2.9 miles of the Frio River winding through 1,774 acres of scenic Hill Country terrain, the park offers a chance to indulge in that most Texas of past times, floating the river. Visitors can also hike 16 miles of scenic trails, camp, study nature, play miniature golf and ride bikes.


Proposition 5 on November Ballot Would Guarantee Funding Source for Texas Parks

Sa Current

October 17, 2019
San Antonio Current | By Rhyma Castillo

Local environmental groups are urging Texans to vote in favor of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee additional funding for parks and historical sites.

Proposition 5 is one of 10 amendments to the Texas constitution voters will consider in during the upcoming November 5 election. Early voting on those measures begins Monday, October 21, and will run through November 1.

Prop 5 would require revenue from an existing sales tax on sporting goods to be provided to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. That tax is already dedicated to parks, but the legislature hasn’t always allocated the funds for the intended purpose, Anna Farrell-Sherman of Environment Texas said Wednesday during a press conference at San Antonio’s Mission Conception.

“From 1993 to 2017, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the sporting good sales tax,” said Farrell-Sherman, who joined other parks advocates on a seven-city tour promoting awareness of the amendment. “However, only 40% of those revenues have been allocated to our parks.”

From a consumer perspective, the amendment wouldn’t change much, since it doesn’t call for any new taxes or an increase on existing ones. The proposition would simply add language guaranteeing funding from the sporting goods sales tax goes to Texas parks — and by extension, Texas communities, advocates say.

“One of our main goals [with Prop 5] is to improve the infrastructure of parks in our lower-income communities,” said Joseph Fitzsimons, founder of the Texas Coalition for State Parks. “In a lot of cases, the infrastructure of our parks is just too old. It’s falling apart.”

According to the National Recreation and Parks Association, parks are more than just community assets — they’re essential public services. In a recent study, the NRPA found that parks and protected public land improve water quality, protect groundwater and increase property values.

“Investing in our parks and communities should be a nonpartisan issue,” said Annalisa Peace of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. “I think we can all agree that everyone can appreciate the beauty in nature and wildlife around us.”


Constitutional amendment would provide better funding for parks, historic areas in San Antonio, rest of Texas

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October 16, 2019
San Antonio Express-News | By Scott Huddleston

State parks and historic sites that are suffering from neglect, deferred maintenance and overuse — including a natural area near San Antonio that regularly draws a long line of cars — would benefit if Proposition 5 on the Nov. 5 ballot wins voter approval.

“We’re reached a point of crisis here with collapsing infrastructure, parks being closed, being loved to death,” said David Yeates, CEO of the Texas Wildlife Association, representing about 9,000 wildlife stewards, property owners and hunters.

Yeates and other parks advocates ended a 7-city, 13-stop tour Wednesday at Mission Concepción with a news conference to discuss the need for a dedicated stream of funding for state, county and city parks. State parks are hurting from more than $750 million in deferred maintenance and needed improvements.

Early voting begins Monday and continues through Nov. 1 at more than 30 locations around the city and county.

Proposition 5 would amend the Texas Constitution to ensure that all sales taxes on sporting goods would go to fund parks and historic sites. The Legislature voted to do that in 1993 but since then, only about 40 percent of those revenues have been appropriated to those areas. The rest — several billion dollars — has gone into the state’s general fund to meet other needs.

On New county parks reservation system ends cash exchanges

“Having a dedicated, reliable predictable stream of revenue is a difference maker,” Yeates said. “Our state parks system represents the best point of entry for Texans to have safe, easy, convenient, low-cost access to the great outdoors.”

The Texas Conservation Alliance estimates the proposition would generate $183 million in 2021, the first year it would take effect. Yeates said 94 percent of that money would benefit state parks or municipal or county parks awarded grants by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The other 6 percent would support state historic sites run by the Texas Historical Commission.

One park near San Antonio that has not kept up with the state’s rapid growth and urbanization is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which doesn’t have adequate access and parking for the large crowds wanting to go rock-climbing or hike the massive granite dome near Fredericksburg, Yeates said.

“Virtually every weekend, they have to close, at a point where it’s one (car) in, one out,” he added. “That’s a public safety issue. That’s an infrastructure capacity issue.”

Monahans Sandhills State Park near Odessa has beautiful white sand dunes but is another example of a park that has declined from lack of allocated funds, said Anna Farrell-Sherman, clean water associate with Environment Texas.

“Their bathrooms are sliding down a sand hill and have been closed for the past two years because they don’t have the funds to repair those restrooms,” she said. “That’s not the sort of thing that we can have in a state park system that is vibrant and working for everybody.”

Joseph Fitzsimons, a former Parks & Wildlife commissioner and co-founder of the Texas Coalition for State Parks, composed of 70 advocacy groups, said he has worked for 20 years to secure a constitutional amendment to fix the problem. His biggest concern is voter apathy.

“The good news is the money’s there. People are spending money on sporting goods,” Fitzsimons said. “When you buy a kayak, you ought to have the expectation that the tax will be used to give you a place to put it in the water. And that’s exactly what this is all about. There’s a logical nexus between the tax and the public service.”

Since 1995, 14 Parks & Wildlife grants totaling nearly $7.3 million supported by the sporting goods sales tax have been awarded to the city of San Antonio for 11 parks, from a $112,600 allocation for Friedrich Wilderness Park in 2011 to a $1 million grant awarded this year for Pearsall Park on the Southwest Side, according to Environment Texas.

Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said only 36 percent of San Antonians live within a 10-minute walk of a park. She said the statewide measure could help the city develop more parks that contribute to fit lifestyles and clean urban ecosystems.

“Passage of Prop 5 will go a long way to making sure our Texas parks continue to provide all the services that we expect from them, while requiring no new taxes.”

Although there is no organized opposition to the measure, Yeates said some people are wary of dedicated tax revenue that does not feed the general fund. To address that, the Legislature passed a bill that allows for a two-thirds vote of both chambers to reduce the funding from 100 percent to 50 percent “for one biennium at a time.”

“So there is a pressure valve, and even that reduction to 50 percent would be above what it’s been, really since the inception of this funding,” Yeates said.

Scott Huddleston covers Bexar County government and the Alamo for the San Antonio Express-News. Read him on our free site,, and on our subscriber site, | [email protected] | Twitter: @shuddlestonSA


From the editor: Considering funding for public parks and historic sites


October 16, 2019
The Orange Leader | By Dawn Burleigh, Editor

Proposition 5: The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state 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 historical sites while not increasing the rate of the sales and use taxes.

On November 5, 2019, Texas will hold a Constitutional Amendment election. Prop. 5 is one of 10 propositions that will be on the ballot. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how we got to this point and why the passage of Prop. 5 is critical.

Prop. 5 is a constitutional dedication of revenue from the existing sales tax (called the Sporting Goods Sales Tax), so those dollars can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission on public parks and historic sites, and not for any other purposes. Importantly, Prop. 5 requires no new taxes or fees. A YES vote on Prop. 5 on Nov. 5 will protect Texas’ natural areas and historic sites, so we don’t lose the very things that make Texas a special place in which to live, according to Texas Coalition for State Parks.

The Texas Coalition for State Parks was launched by a group of former Texas Parks & Wildlife Commissioners and park advocates with the sole purpose of advocating for a constitutional dedication of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to state parks funding.

In 1993, the Texas Legislature wisely worked to replace the 1970s and 1980s cigarette tax funding (a one-penny-per-pack tax on cigarettes) for state parks with a consistent stream of funding designated from a portion of the sales taxes collected from the sale of sporting goods, known as the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST). Unfortunately, the funds have not consistently found their way to the parks. In fact, from 1993 to 2017, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the SGST, yet only 40 percent has been appropriated for parks, according to a previously published article in The Orange Leader.

Texans for Fiscal responsibility agree.

“While taxes on sporting goods in Texas have always been intended to finance state parks, lawmakers inside the Capitol frequently pilfered the revenues for other projects. The passage of Proposition 5 will prevent that diversion and ensure that revenues raised are spent on their intended purpose,” the organization stated in a press release.

“Despite the vital importance of our state parks system, since 1993, more than half of the sporting good sales tax revenue originally intended for state parks has been diverted to other uses. As a result, state parks suffer from more than $800 million in deferred maintenance. … It is time to fix this problem. Our parks are vital to our state’s economy, emergency response efforts, wildlife management, and recreational opportunities,” Rep. John Cyrier (R-17) said according to

Whereas the current law allows the legislature to allocate the revenue for other uses, Proposition 5 would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to reduce the amount for the parks, wildlife, and historical agencies.

Be sure to get out and vote so your representatives know your if you are for or against this change to our state’s constitution.

Dawn Burleigh is the general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at [email protected]


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© 2019 Texas Coalition for State Parks. Political Ad by Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC.