Texas lawmakers are looking to save Texas state parks from closing down by making sure that taxpayer funds intended for state parks get there.
When you go to a sporting goods store and buy a canoe there is a little tax that supports the Texas park system, since a person would be likely to enjoy paddling that canoe on Texas state waterways.
Over the years the state diverted that park tax money and held it in order to balance the state budget on paper.
In the current state budget, $184 million pegged for parks was diverted to help balance the overall budget.
State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, has filed Senate Bill 175 – that would put the sporting goods tax back to support state parks.
“It’s important that we maintain these state parks and we have some beautiful ones. They preserve our Texas Heritage and they need to be carefully guarded not only for us but for our future generations”
State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, filed similar legislation, House Bill 162. He pointed out that there’s a growing list of parks that are years behind in maintenance because of lack of state funding.
“If you look at the issues in the parks; we’ve deferred maintenance at a clip of about $500 million – it could be as high as $800 million – we stopped tracking it about six years ago," Larson said.
The preliminary versions of the House and Senate budgets for 2014-15 include funds for 84 state parks -- meaning the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would have to close seven parks.
The budget is currently looking at a surplus and no decision has been made on what to do with the money; however, Gov. Rick Perry has proposed using the money for tax cuts and tax rebates.