On HB318- Texas Park Money Allocations from the Sporting Goods Tax-Sid Miller (Tx House District 59)Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

On HB318- Texas Park Money Allocations from the Sporting Goods Tax-Sid Miller (Tx House District 59)
 


4 December 2006 at 10:46:22 AM
salon

Article in the Stephenville paper this morning explains more about the proposed bill. (Here's where you can read and comment about the bill on this site).  First, the spin about why the money was taken out of Parks and Wildlife (I have some swamp land to sell you if you believe this)

Disappointed with the agency’s leadership at a time when the agency wasn’t in “good shape,” Miller said, the Legislature sliced its funding in half - from $70 million to a maximum of $32 million a year - as punishment.

“Since we (lawmakers) can’t fire anybody, and the governor can’t fire anybody, we took away their funding,” Miller said.

Miller said lawmakers wanted agency leaders to spend more of the then-$70 million in revenue on state parks and historical sites. Instead, Miller said, the agency failed to cut a sufficient number of employees and vehicles and, as a result, “We took it (revenue) away from them.”

In January 2003, Carole Keeton Strayhorn's Dept did an accounting of Texas Parks vehicles versus number of employees as part of an audit discussing efficiency and waste with the department. With some parks there were more vehicles than employees.

The bill itself

Under Miller’s proposal, 69 percent of the sales tax revenue would go to state park funding. Thirty percent would go to the account used to fund cost-sharing grants for local parks.

Under current law, no more than $32 million in general sales tax revenue can be allocated to park funding each year. The Legislature has invariably allocated less than that, this year providing only $15.4 million to state parks and $5.2 million to the park grants program.

I notice that in 2005 Hilderbran and Villareal attempted to pass a bill, HB1292, which would lift that cap from 32 million to $85 million-the bill was left pending in committee.

The $32 million cap was set by the Legislature in 1993. It mirrored the amount generated at the time by the park system's portion of a tax on cigarettes.

As the amount generated by cigarette sales declined, lawmakers switched to the "sporting goods" tax. However, Texas has no tax levied specifically at sporting goods. Instead, the comptroller's office estimates the amount of general sales tax revenue generated from sporting goods using data collected by the National Sporting Goods Association.

Since 1993, revenue from the sporting goods sales tax has increased to nearly $94 million in 2004, according to the comptroller's office. That amount is expected to top $104 million by 2007.

...

"The time is actually quite past; state parks have been underfunded for quite some time." Kercheval said. "Unfortunately in the past it's been a situation of if we give state parks more money, then are we taking money away from children and health, some of those kind of things. That's a pretty tough vote to make."

More from 2006-Jacksonville, Texas paper

But there is good news for patrons of Texas state parks. There exists a tax that supposedly goes directly toward TPWD funding; allowing parks to fix what’s broken, clean what’s dirty and update what’s obsolete. Unfortunately for state park fans, less than 30 percent of the money collected from that tax each year actually goes to TPWD. Instead of the roughly $110 million collected, TPWD gets $32 million. And of the $32 million that the TPWD receives on a yearly basis, $5 or $6 million is immediately handed off to local city and county parks. And of the $26 million left after that, the Wildlife portion of Texas Parks and Wildlife takes a hefty chunk. State parks are left with the barest scraps.

The tax mentioned above is a sporting goods tax that was initially earmarked for parks use. In 1993, when the tax was first introduced, money was collected based on the amount of cigarettes that Texas smokers bought. Fifty cents of every 1,000 packs was sent to TPWD. In September of 1995, the tax was switched from smoking to sporting goods, and the current amount the cigarette tax was bringing in was set as the cap for the sporting goods tax. Thus, the amount spent by smokers in 1995 is today determining the fate of our state parks.

The first $32 million of the sporting goods tax goes to TPWD; the rest goes to the general fund. The problem is that the sporting goods tax now brings in far more money than the cigarette tax ever did, and 70 percent of it isn’t going to its intended source.

Arguing to take money raised by the sporting goods tax and returning it back to the parks has been especially difficult because the money collected above the cap has been going to necessary causes like funding education costs and property tax reductions.

Oh. It wasn't to PUNISH the state parks for having too many vehicles? Maybe they were the vehicles up on blocks.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Parks Division resembles a pickup truck with a great body, but an empty gas tank, bad tires and an engine blowing smoke.

Come to think of it, that could also describe some of the division's vehicles.

Despite 10 million visitors a year, the division and many of its 114 facilities have seen better days. The problems have been caused by a lack of preventative maintenance that goes back to years of revenue shortfalls. And parts are falling off. The department has either ceased or cut back operations at 50 parks, including the Texas State Railroad that is almost assured to soon become parked, the elimination of more than 70 staffers and a fleet of hand-me-down vehicles that average 10 years old.


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Comments

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