On the Texas State Legislators Belatedly Realizing the State Parks Need MoneySomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


On the Texas State Legislators Belatedly Realizing the State Parks Need Money

16 December 2006 at 12:36:32 PM

It isn't just that there hasn't been enough money allocated for state parks; it's that the money allocated has been SHIFTED to other funding. Article in the Waco Trib seems to want to say that there's been this money , but over time it has turned out not to be enough and THAT is why the parks have fallen into disrepair. Well, that may be true, but it's ALSO the sleaziness of the Texas Legislature taking money that WAS allocated and using it for other reasons.

A recent report in the Houston Chronicle pointed out that legislative raiding of dedicated funds is "routine," involving other taxes and fees that were earmarked for specific purposes.

Some other examples include a 1995 so-called Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund tax to pay for communications improvements for schools, libraries and hospitals. It was supposed to end after 10 years, but lawmakers won't let it die. The take now is $200 million a year for whatever the Legislature wants to use it on, but the money is no longer being spent for the original purpose.

A fee of 65 cents per megawatt hour put on electric bills in 1999 by the Legislature was to raise money to subsidize utility bills for senior citizens and low-income Texans. Last year, however, the Legislature used the fund's $239 million balance to help certify the state budget instead, and the charge is still being collected.

A 1997 law allowing Texans to pay an extra fee (now $30) to have specialty "Animal Friendly" license plates was enacted to provide funds to sterilize animals to prevent overpopulation and associated health and safety risks. The current two-year budget provides $500,000 for that purpose, but that is only about half what the fee is expected to generate. More than $1 million raised in previous years remains unspent.

There are some constitutional dedicated funds, such as the highway trust fund, that can't be changed without voter approval. Most such funds, however, can be changed, or ignored, by the Legislature.

It sure looks to me that the attempt by Craddick and Sid Miller (who filed the bill)  to raise the cap on parks is being spun to hide the fact that the Texas Lege has not done right by state parks and is now riding in to save them.. when they caused the ruination in the first place. Incidentally, that was a high priority of Chris Bell, who regularly called for raising the cap on the sporting goods tax... and now Republicans are copying his good idea.

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has signaled the system is due more money this year, including a measure that will raise the cap on its funding from the sales tax on sporting goods.

“The speaker is on record for supporting increased funding for the parks,” Craddick spokesman Chris Cutrone said. “We are hoping we will have some ideas where the park will have better long-term funding.”

State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who again heads the Texas House’s Democratic caucus, says parks have been victims of the misguided priorities of the Republican leadership and are long overdue for attention.

Since the Texas Lege can apparently ignore, raid, or otherwise reallocate (ie, JUGGLE) funds around for what IT wants, how can we be sure that even raising the cap will make the money go for state parks and not something else? After all, we have examples like this one of Perry taking money from education to pay for a lobbyist who would push video gambling!

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