Sunday, March 22, 2009

Texas Parks and Wildlife Underfunded by Legislature


I usually do not run a newspaper articles on my Blog but Mike Leggett of the Austin American Statesman wrote about one of my pet peeves this morning and he hit the nail on the head. Sportsmen in Texas should be outraged by the underfunding of Texas Parks and Wildlife by our Legislature. This is a case of them not doing anything unless the public outcry gets so bad that they have to allocate funds for fear they will not get re-elected. Each of us should send at least an email if not make a call to our State Senators and Representatives this week and tell them to support this and fund TPWD. After all it is your money and your park system. Get involved, Wild Ed


MIKE LEGGETT: OUTDOORS
Texas parks remain underfunded
By
Mike LeggettAMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFSunday, March 22, 2009

Somebody has to say it: The Texas Legislature's long-term treatment of state parks has been shameful.
Sure, after a near uprising during the last legislative session, lawmakers finally came up with enough money to jump-start the state's aging and fading parks system, but they only allocated that money one time. It was a token response and it was far too small.
In the meantime, they've virtually ignored for 16 years the 1993 legislation that created a statewide sporting goods sales tax, which was designated solely for state parks and local park grants. The hundreds of millions of dollars that should have gone to parks in this state have disappeared into the state's bank accounts while parks have slipped into disrepair and decline.
Former Parks and Wildlife Department executive director Andy Sansom tried sounding the drumbeat for greater funding for parks as far back as the mid-1990s, and the only thing he got for it was vilification.
One of the few who've tried to counter the cash grab at the Capitol has been Rep. Harvey Hilderbran. The Kerrville Republican, along with then-Parks and Wildlife commission chairman Joseph Fitzsimons, tried in 2005 and again in 2007 to introduce and gain passage of legislation that would have forced the full funding of parks from the state's sporting goods sales tax.
That would have thrown more than $100 million into the bank for parks, natural areas and historic sites. It didn't work, but Hilderbran is trying again, this time with HB 7, which he filed March 13. Bless him for trying.
Hilderbran said in a news release that the $98 million parks and historic sites received last session was great, but that it couldn't reverse years of underfunding that have resulted in less-than-stellar experiences for parks visitors in Texas. Before that one-time allocation, parks were getting at most $32 million a year in sales tax revenues, a number that had even been declining early in this decade.
His new bill would dedicate — a word lawmakers really hate unless it's referring to a statue in their honor — tax revenue from the sales of sporting goods to support state parks and historic sites, plus restore grant money for local park projects already approved by the state. Hilderbran also is seeking to quantify the exact meaning of "sporting goods" so that the dedicated money can be funneled into parks accounts and used to create the kind of parks system Texans say they want and everyone says they deserve.
"No doubt, the millions of Texans who enjoy state parks each year would certainly appreciate and place a high value on additional investments in continuing to improve the quality of our state park system," said Carter Smith, Parks and Wildlife's latest executive director. "According to a recent study by the (state) comptroller, the economic benefits from state parks to local communities, particularly rural ones, are appreciable. Moreover, in this economic climate, many Texans are seeking affordable, accessible and high quality outdoor recreational destinations close to home where they can camp, fish, hike, canoe, kayak and enjoy all that nature has to offer."
"State parks, with their myriad natural and historical treasures, offer the perfect setting for Texas families to accomplish that. People in Austin have to look no further than Pedernales Falls, Bastrop, McKinney Falls or Enchanted Rock state parks to experience that," Carter added.
Hilderbran's bill has been referred to the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism. It can be reviewed online at www.legis.state.tx.us.
http://www.statesman.com/sports/content/sports/stories/outdoors/03/22//0322legcol.html

3 comments:

DCortez said...

I wish people would visit a (any) state park once a year. Texas is a beautiful state and our parks deserve better.

tom said...

As one that pays the taxes and buys his Super-Combo religiously every year and even feeds game a bit on his property because the drought has been leaving too many malnourished ones about...If I can help support Texas Wildlife myself, I think I need to write a couple letters regarding MY Tax dollars and License fees as to what they support now and what I'd like them to do.

I like finding drop antlers back in the cedars, not malnourished dropped deer covered in ants in March.

Happy Hunting,

Anonymous said...

It almost outright criminal how the money gets stolen from TPWD. Even on Licensing fees, only a small percentage of that gets into TPWD's hands. I say if they generate the revenue, let them have it. Let the greedy politicians find other ways to line their own pockets or fund their useless inner-city programs that don't work.

This is just like the State lotto. It was supposed to fund schools across the state. Now that money disappears into the oblivion, and no-one is held accountable. I say their all criminals! Some just talk a better line then others.