From the editor Considering funding for public parks and historic sites
Published 2:36 pm Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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 ballotpedia.org.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org