In theory, as well as in public support, Texas Parks and Wildlife funding is essential. The funds are garnered through a sporting good sales tax with 94 percent of the revenue slated for ongoing park and wildlife maintenance and 6 percent going to the Texas Historical Commission for maintenance of historical sites throughout the state. That is the theory and many Texans believe the problem of funding was solved over two decades ago. But in practice, the parks department is looking at a $100 million shortfall. What happened?
According to Texas legislators who are in support of increasing parks and wildlife funding, only 34 percent of the sporting good sales tax is put toward parks and wildlife. The rest is used to balance the budget with priority given to emergency preparedness. With six presidentially-declared disasters in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the governor has committed to full funding of the Disaster Fund for 2016-2017. Sources indicate that the fund has an approximately $84 million dollar allocation, but this could increase if the need arises; the Legislative Budget Board has the authority to transfer funds between departments.
While some representatives are in favor of flexible budgets, others are concerned about inconsistent park funding. They, and other supporters of increased park funding point to the economic benefits experienced by communities near state parks and historical sites. They also point to natural conservation issues that parks help to alleviate.
Currently, despite its support, the measure is in committee. Though Texans take pride in their state lands and historic sites, the bigger issue among lawmakers isn't about the parks. It is about maintaining flexibility in the budget in order to meet unforeseen events.
Whether lobbying for increased funding or lobbying against, please contact attorney Jake Posey and the team at the Posey Law Firm to learn more about legal strategies that can strengthen your position.