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Let’s fund our State Parks and Historic Sites for future Generations of Texans

Lighthouse Peak

October 26, 2019
Bay City Tribune | By Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Rep. John Cyrier (R-Lockhart)

Some of our families best summer adventures over the years have been at Texass state parks. And the numbers indicate that you and your family have probably enjoyed our parksa and historic sites over the years, too: nearly 10 million people visited state parks in 2017, up about 40 percent since 2012.

Texas is growing quickly. More people are visiting the parks than ever before, and we couldn’t be happier about it. However, this puts pressure on already-strained park infrastructure, much of which is ailing. Altogether, our state parks sit on about 640,000 acres of land, much of which was first developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and 40s. In the decades that have followed, the infrastructure from roads, to marinas, campgrounds, swimming pools, utility systems, sewage treatment, you name it simply hasn’t kept up with 21st century demands.

For example, 91 percent of the 113 playgrounds are 30 years old or older, and 50 of those are in urgent need of replacement. And 90 percent of the 491 restroom facilities in the parks are over 30 years old, with 300 needing to be removed or replaced. Now there’s something on which the Texas Legislature should take action, don’t you think? We sure thought so.

We love Texas state parks and want to preserve them for future generations of Texans to love and enjoy, too. And that’s why we worked hard this year to pass bipartisan legislation that would amend the state constitution accordingly. The next and final step is to put the issue before Texas voters in this Novembers election it’ll be Proposition 5 on the ballot. Proposition 5 is a constitutional dedication of revenue from the existing sales tax so that those dollars can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to maintain public parks and historic sites, and not for any other purposes. (From 1993 to 2017, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the Sporting Good Sales Tax, yet only 40 percent was been appropriated for parks, with the rest being used to fill in gaps elsewhere in the state budget.)

A YES vote on Proposition 5 will protect Texas’ natural areas and historic sites, so that we don’t lose the very things that make Texas such a special place to live. Make no mistake: Sustainable, consistent FUNDING is the fiscally conservative and economically sound way to ensure our PARKS endure for years and years to come. One very important thing to note: Proposition 5 results in no new taxes. None. Not now, not in the future.

The Legislature has done its part, and so now the measure goes to the people. Surely we can all agree that these special places are vital to our economy and to our Texas heritage, culture, and way of life. We hope Texans will overwhelmingly vote for this fiscally conservative solution to fund our great parks and historic sites for generations to come. Vote YES on Proposition 5.

Source: http://baycitytribune.com/opinion/article_a15d16ec-f801-11e9-aebe-bfd505429262.html

Area state parks could benefit from Nov. 5 state proposition

Copper Breaks 0185

October 26, 2019
Waco Tribune-Herald | By Mike Copeland

A beautiful deer welcomed a visitor at the entry of Mother Neff State Park on Thursday, unfazed by the vehicle a few feet away. It was obvious the doe had seen these shiny things before.

About 25,000 people a year visit the 401-acre park in Coryell County, just across the McLennan County line and hugging the oft-flooded Leon River.

It has prairies and oak and juniper woodlands, with secluded play and relaxation areas, campsites, hiking paths, an impressive visitors center. Its novelty attractions are tucked away here and there: a stone armadillo the size of a riding lawnmower or a Tic-Tac-Toe game made of wood chips.

But it also has a big problem with flood damage, one that friends of the park hope Proposition 5 will help remedy. The constitutional amendment Texas voters will consider on Nov. 5 would ensure that tax revenue generated by the retail sale of sporting goods would be spent supporting the state parks system and not diverted to other uses.

Waco’s state legislative delegation — Reps. Kyle Kacal Charles “Doc” Anderson and Sen. Brian Birdwell — have supported the measure.

Chronic flooding in recent years has clouded the appeal of Mother Neff State Park, forcing the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to restrict access to a swath near Leon River for months at a time. Gone from public enjoyment are towering pecan trees and grasslands ideal for picnicking.

Access remained blocked last week, the situation so frustratingly constant that the an official trails map includes a zone “closed due to flooding.”

In the immediate area there is testimony to the high water, including mud-caked trees, soggy structures and a dampness that hangs like fog.

“We call that the original Mother Neff State Park,” said Lois Anderson, secretary-treasurer of an association formed, in her words, to look after Mother Neff.

“I first saw the flooding in 2007, and I’ve seen water above the rooftops,” she said. “It’s a beautiful area over there, wonderful to see the deer, raccoons and possums. But we’re also seeing it fall apart before our eyes, which makes people upset and disgusted.”

Park friends hosted a fall festival at Mother Neff on Saturday. Activities included scavenger hunts and visits from local wildlife rehabilitation groups. Anderson assured that those attending would be urged to vote yes on Proposition 5, which has received broad support from advocacy groups such as Environment Texas and the Texas Coalition for State Parks.

Mother Neff is among four parks in the counties adjacent to Waco, all of which have issues associated with age or weather damage. The other parks are:

Meridian State Park, a 505-acre gem that wraps around Meridian Lake in Bosque County. Known for its fishing, hiking and Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps structures, it drew 38,732 visitors last year.
Fort Parker State Park, which covers a combined 1,458 acres of land and water between Mexia and Groesbeck in Limestone County. It welcomed 40,978 visitors last year.

Lake Whitney State Park, which sprawls across 1,280 acres next to Lake Whitney, a fishing, water sports and camping venue in Hill and Bosque counties. It drew 81,390 visitors last year, but the park suffered closures with lake flooding in fall 2018 and spring 2019, and TPWD recommends erosion repair and flood recovery projects.

The state since 1993 has earmarked revenue generated by the 6.25 percent sales tax on sporting goods to support the Parks and Wildlife Department and the State Historical Commission. But according to Texas Senate Research Center findings summarized on ballotpedia.org, appropriations often fall short of revenue estimates made by the Texas Comptroller’s Office.

Through 2017, the state collected $2.5 billion in sales taxes on sporting goods, but about 40 percent went to other areas of the state budget, according to the Austin American-Statesman. In recent years, too, money has been funneled to projects involving state parks damaged by Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas and Louisiana, inflicting an estimated $125 billion in damage.

Anderson understands priorities, but she and other fans of Mother Neff have grown weary of funds being diverted to “pet projects and rainy-day funds.”

She said she realizes addressing the flooding along the Leon River will require more resolve, intergovernmental cooperation and funding than Proposition 5 might provide. Logjams have been known to transform the river from trickle to tempest in no time. Solutions may require collaboration upstream and downstream. Property owners, municipalities and agencies such as the Brazos River Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Department of Transportation may need to get involved, Anderson said.

But Proposition 5 shines a brighter light on the problem, she added.

Aubry Buzek, with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, said TPWD does recognize the challenges facing Mother Neff State Park.

“The original river bottom area of the park has been ravaged by flooding of the Leon River over the last 10-plus years,” she wrote in an email response to questions. “Funds to stabilize the CCC-built rock tabernacle and recreation hall and replace the day-use restroom are needed in this area of the park.”

The park, located about 32 miles from Waco, is saturated with history.

It owes its name to Isabella Neff, who donated the original six acres in 1921. Her youngest son, Pat Neff, served as the 28th governor of Texas and the ninth president of Baylor University.

The Civilian Conservation Corps, a voluntary relief organization for unemployed men active during the 1930s and early 1940s, built the rock tower, a stone picnic table and carved steps leading to Park Road 14, according to information available at the information center.

“Mother Neff State Park is quite an interesting place, with three distinct ecosystems,” said Waco businessman and park enthusiast Austin Meek. “I’ve been there probably 10 times the past five years, but have never been able to access that section nearest the Leon River. Hopefully, some of the money freed up by Proposition 5 will be used to address that situation.”

Meek said he voted early and supports passage of Proposition 5. He said state parks and public structures are invaluable assets that must be preserved, and made more accessible to the public, especially young people.

Early voting in the statewide election ends Friday.

Source: https://www.wacotrib.com/news/local/area-state-parks-could-benefit-from-nov-state-proposition/article_71b61add-1c36-5e18-b3e2-4980749308e4.html

Constitutional amendment would permanently fund state parks

Esterosunrisepic#21

October 24, 2019
McAllen Monitor | By Dina Arévalo

A white peacock butterfly alights on the delicate lavender-colored blossoms of a Gregg’s mistflower bush growing in a tangle with Turk’s cap and other butterfly-friendly flowers at the entrance to Estero Llano Grande State Park on Wednesday.

Down a red brick-paved lane shaded by a canopy of more of the flowering shrubs, a pair of birdwatchers pause to observe another butterfly before heading on, cameras and high-powered scopes in tow, toward the expansive wooden deck that greets park visitors at the end of the lane.

It’s peak season at the park, with the fall migration of birds, butterflies and damselflies attracting ecotourists from across the U.S. to the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most biodiverse places in the country. And business is booming, with some 8.6 million people visiting a Texas state park in the last year — approximately 1 million more visitors than a decade ago, according to officials from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

However, the state park system has for years struggled to keep up as the influx of visitors, combined with an insufficient and unpredictable funding system, taxed an aging infrastructure system. But state lawmakers are hoping a proposed ballot measure will help remedy that, making the allocation of funds for state parks a permanent fixture of the Texas Constitution via Proposition 5.

One of 10 proposed constitutional amendments on the state ballot this November, Proposition 5 would — if passed — guarantee a permanent revenue stream for Texas’ more than 90 state parks by ensuring that money generated from sales taxes on sporting goods would go almost entirely to TPWD.

UNDERFUNDED PARKS

It was in 1993 that lawmakers first passed legislation to allocate the revenues from sporting goods sales taxes to fund state parks and the Texas Historical Commission.

The vast majority of the revenues, 94%, were slated to go to TPWD, with the remaining 6% going to the THC. The allocation was meant to replace a 1-cent tax on cigarettes that had previously been used to fund the parks.

However, nearly every biennium since then, a significant portion of those revenues have instead been diverted to balance the state’s general fund. It wasn’t until the 2015 legislative session that 100% of TPWD’s portion of the SGST actually went to the state park system.

Then, in the 2018-19 biennium, only 89% of the sales tax revenues made their way to TPWD, according to a financial overview the agency published this January. In all, less than half of the $2.4 billion in sporting goods sales taxes collected between 1993 and 2017 were ultimately allocated to TPWD.

In 2019, TPWD had a total budget of $419 million to staff and operate some 95 state parks, 50 wildlife management areas and over 1.4 million acres of land.

That diverted funding has meant parks across the state have had to put much-needed maintenance and repairs on hold — repeatedly — as they await the funding lawmakers promised them decades ago.

“We just keep pushing it back,” said Javier de Leon, superintendent of Estero Llano Grande State Park. “We keep deferring it to other years. So right now, the estimate is $800 million in deferred maintenance for state parks.”

Too, the funding shortfall has meant TPWD has been unable to open new parks, despite having new land ready to be opened to the public. De Leon estimated the department had four or five properties “waiting in the wings to get opened” as state parks, including a 17,000-acre property near Port O’Connor that officials hope to make available for hunting and recreation.

PROP 5

If passed, Proposition 5 would ensure that 100% of the SGST revenues would be allocated to the state parks and the historical commission, as originally intended in 1993. It would ensure that the funding would be more than just a legislative promise but a permanent allocation by encoding it into the state’s constitution.

“We want to make sure that if there’s funding dedicated for a certain agency, that it be utilized for that,” said state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, District 39, Wednesday evening.

Martinez spoke of the legislature’s efforts over the last two legislative sessions to end funding diversions — from funds being directed away from transportation and education, to focusing this year on righting the allocations meant for state parks.

“When we go back for Proposition 5 and making sure that that funding is dedicated for parks, it helps us … not only expand our parks, but upgrade them and do the necessary things that are needed for our parks,” Martinez said.

The proposed ballot measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both state legislative bodies this spring.

“We can all agree that these special places are vital to our economy and to our heritage, culture, and way of life,” said state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham via a statement Wednesday.

Kolkhorst co-sponsored the resolution along with state Rep. John P. Cyrier, R-Lockhart.

“Supporting our state parks and historic sites is an investment in our future and provides a gateway to the outdoors for every Texan,” Kolkhorst said.

ESTERO LLANO GRANDE

For Estero Llano Grande, the revenue stream would give the park a shot in the arm.

At just 231 acres, it’s the smallest of the Rio Grande Valley’s four state parks, which include Falcon, Resaca de la Palma, and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Parks. But, it’s a haven for migratory birds and its variety of habitats ensure there’s always something new to see.

“It feels a lot bigger than 231 acres,” de Leon said, adding that 25,000 people visit Estero each year.

But, the visitors and the current funding sources aren’t enough, the park superintendent explained. “The park does not run in the black,” he said, despite receiving more than $503,000 in funding this year.

“That’s why this is important, because, at a certain point, the quality and the value of some of these places starts suffering because there’s just so much you can do with appropriations,” de Leon said of the current funding process, which can fluctuate from legislative session to legislative session.

De Leon explained that Estero Llano Grande is fortunate to be one of the newer state parks, having been open just over a dozen years. That means its infrastructure remains in good shape, though there are always wish list items.

Should Proposition 5 pass, it could mean more campground space at the park in the future.

“There’s 850,000 people in Hidalgo County, and in the county, there’s 30 campsites,” de Leon said. All of those are in the Mission area.

With more funding, officials at the Weslaco-area park could consider adding camp space in the Mid-Valley — perhaps 20-30 “primitive” camp spaces, de Leon said.

It’s an idea one local environmental activist is keen on.

“Estero Llano Grande has purchased an RV park that’s adjacent to their land and could very easily develop that into a real campground, such as you would see, for instance, in Garner State Park or Guadalupe State Park,” said Stefanie Herweck, a representative of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.

“I’m excited for the potential to have more opportunities for people to get to see the Rio Grande Valley nature because there’s so little of it left and so much of it is protected in these few state parks,” Herweck said.

Early voting continues this week through Friday, Nov. 1. Polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday, Oct. 27, when they will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Source: https://www.themonitor.com/2019/10/24/constitutional-amendment-permanently-fund-state-parks/

Constitutional Amendment Supporting State Parks

Seminole974 02

October 24, 2019
Freestone County Times

If passed, funds from existing Sporting Goods Sales Tax will be Consititutionally dedicated to needs of parks and historic sites

Early voting began Monday, Oct. 21, and Texans have the opportunity to vote on 10 constitutional amendments, including Proposition 5. If approved, Prop 5 would guarantee that revenue received from the collection of existing state sales taxes on sporting goods is appropriated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

The Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST) is the portion of state sales taxes collected from the sale of sporting goods in Texas. It is neither a new tax nor will it raise taxes. State law currently authorizes the Legislature to make appropriations from the collection of sales taxes on sporting goods to support state parks, historic sites and local park grants, and Prop 5 constitutionally dedicates these funds to TPWD and THC. The allocation of the funds would be split 93% to TPWD and 7% to THC.

Dedicated appropriations from the SGST would ensure a reliable and predictable source of funding to keep not only state parks and historic sites safe and in working order, but allows TPWD and THC to provide new outdoor recreational opportunities to meet the demands of a growing state.

Funding from the SGST would allow for millions of dollars to be dedicated toward the creation and continuing development of city, county and neighborhood parks through TPWD’s local park grant program. These grants help secure the future of local parks, ensuring they will be available for generations of families in Texas to enjoy.

Additionally, the funding could help build and open undeveloped sites owned by TPWD, including the Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area between Kendall and Bandera County, Davis Hill State Park in Liberty County, Chinati Mountains State Natural Area in Presidio County, the Dan A. Hughes Unit of Devils River State Natural Area in Val Verde County and acreage adjacent to the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area in Calhoun County slated to be transferred to TPWD for future development as a state park.

The SGST has been instrumental in funding numerous repair and improvement projects within the Texas State Park system, such as the new visitors’ centers at Mission Tejas State Park and Franklin Mountains State Park, new cabins at Fort Boggy State Park, restroom and wastewater treatment plant replacement at Garner State Park, replacement of restrooms at Caddo Lake State Park and repairs to the dam at Huntsville State Park, just to name a few.

A list of on-going and completed repair and improvement projects at state parks across Texas can be found online at http://texasstateparks.org/brighterfuture.

For more information on the Nov. 5 election, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s website at https://www.votetexas.gov.

Source: http://freestonecountytimesonline.com/constitutional-amendment-supporting-state-parks/

Vote Yes on Prop. 5 for parks, historic preservation

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October 23, 2019
Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post | By Ernie Loeffler

Early voting has started on 10 Texas constitutional amendments. Now I know some of you are probably thinking “So what? I am busy and don’t have time to go vote.”

However, it is extremely important for everyone who wants more support for state and local parks and state historical sites to go out and vote “yes” for Proposition 5.

Proposition 5 would dedicate revenue from the existing sales tax on sporting goods so that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission would receive 100% of the sales tax on sporting goods every year, providing a reliable and sustained source of funding – without increasing taxes.

The proposition reads: “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.”

You might ask, “Didn’t we already vote on this?”

Yes, we did. Unfortunately, the State Legislature over the years has diverted part of the sales and use taxes collected from sporting goods for other state purposes. Now, I am sure those were real needs. However, I believe the intent of the voters was for all of those taxes to be used for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

So, it is time to reaffirm our intent as citizens of the state. Please vote “yes” on Proposition 5.
According to a Texas Conservation Alliance flyer, Proposition 5 will direct an estimated $183 million to state and local parks and historic sites in the first year.

Who will benefit? All of the citizens of Texas (and visitors to our state) who use state and local parks and visit state historic sites will benefit in the long run.

The population of Texas is increasing rapidly, but the state parks lands are not due to lack of funding. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a classic example of more and more park users wanting to enjoy the same amount of park space.

In addition to E Rock, other area state facilities that could get much-needed additional funding include LBJ State Park and Historic Site, Old Tunnel State Park and the National Museum of the Pacific War, which is part of The Texas Historical Commission.

There will also be the opportunity for grants for local governments to upgrade city and county parks.

In addition to Proposition 5, there are nine other constitutional amendments. And in the City of Fredericksburg, there is also the vote on fluoridation of the public water system.

Early voting is taking place now at Gillespie County Annex 2, located at 102 East San Antonio Street on Mondays through Fridays until November 1.

Election day is Tuesday, November 5. Watch this newspaper for polling locations on election day.

Thanks for supporting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission with a “yes” vote on Proposition 5.

Loeffler is the president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Source: https://www.fredericksburgstandard.com/news/vote-%E2%80%98yes%E2%80%99-prop-5-parks-historic-preservation

Texas early voting began Monday; constitutional amendment supporting state, local parks and historic sites on ballot

Indian Lodge 0090

October 23, 2019
Colorado County Citizen

If passed, funds from the existing Sporting Goods Sales Tax will be constitutionally dedicated to addressing the needs of parks and historic sites across Texas.

Early voting began Monday, Oct. 21, and Texans will have the opportunity to vote on 10 constitutional amendments, including Proposition 5. If approved, Prop 5 would guarantee that revenue received from the collection of existing state sales taxes on sporting goods is appropriated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

The Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST) is the portion of state sales taxes collected from the sale of sporting goods in Texas. It is neither a new tax nor will it raise taxes. State law currently authorizes the Legislature to make appropriations from the collection of sales taxes on sporting goods to support state parks, historic sites and local park grants, and Prop 5 constitutionally dedicates these funds to TPWD and THC. The allocation of the funds would be split 93 percent to TPWD and 7 percent to THC.

Dedicated appropriations from the SGST would ensure a reliable and predictable source of funding to keep not only state parks and historic sites safe and in working order, but allows TPWD and THC to provide new outdoor recreational opportunities to meet the demands of a growing state.

Funding from the SGST would allow for millions of dollars to be dedicated toward the creation and continuing development of city, county and neighborhood parks through TPWD’s local park grant program. These grants help secure the future of local parks, ensuring they will be available for generations of families in Texas to enjoy.

Additionally, the funding could help build and open undeveloped sites owned by TPWD, including the Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area between Kendall and Bandera County, Davis Hill State Park in Liberty County, Chinati Mountains State Natural Area in Presidio County, the Dan A. Hughes Unit of Devils River State Natural Area in Val Verde County and acreage adjacent to the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area in Calhoun County slated to be transferred to TPWD for future development as a state park.

The SGST has been instrumental in funding numerous repair and improvement projects within the Texas State Park system, such as the new visitors’ centers at Mission Tejas State Park and Franklin Mountains State Park, new cabins at Fort Boggy State Park, restroom and wastewater treatment plant replacement at Garner State Park, replacement of restrooms at Caddo Lake State Park and repairs to the dam at Huntsville State Park, just to name a few.

A list of on-going and completed repair and improvement projects at state parks across Texas can be found online at http://texasstateparks.org/brighterfuture.

For more information on the Nov. 5 election, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s website at https://www.votetexas.gov.

Source: https://www.coloradocountycitizen.com/article/viewpoints/texas-early-voting-began-monday-constitutional-amendment-supporting-state-local

Texas proposal addresses state & local park funding

Wideopenspaces

October 22, 2019
KTAL-TV | By Heather Wright

Early voting is underway and among the amendments voters in Texas will see on the ballot next month is Proposition 5.

If passed, it would guarantee sales taxes on sporting goods will go to fund state and local parks. It would amend the state constitution so that funds from the sporting good sales tax can only go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

District One Representative Gary VanDeaver, (R) New Boston, said he supports the measure. “We have a lot of historical markers here in this county and my district, and a lot of historical sites, and it takes money to keep those up and we certainly want to do that. We want to maintain those historical sites so that generations to come can enjoy them.”

Officials have said over the years, the legislature has diverted some of the funds and used them for other programs and to balance the budget.

Source: https://www.arklatexhomepage.com/news/texarkana-news/texas-proposal-addresses-state-local-park-funding/

Proposition designates money for parks

Rivard Report

October 22, 2019
KLBJ

Proposition five on the November ballot would set aside money for state parks.

In 1993, State Lawmakers set aside sales taxes on sporting goods to go to state parks, but that’s not always where it’s gone says Jenifer Sarver with the Texas Coalition for State Parks.

She says many of our state parks were built in the 1930s and are in desperate need of repair. She says some of this money will help neighborhood parks too.

Source: https://www.newsradioklbj.com/news/austin-local-news/proposition-designates-money-parks

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

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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.

Source: https://www.lubbockonline.com/news/20191018/prop-5-would-dedicate-sporting-good-tax-money-to-park-funding

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