Yesterday the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department testified before the Senate Finance Committee asking for $18.9 million to avoid closing as many as 20 state parks here in Texas.
Currently in drafts of the Senate budget so far, $6.9 million is dedicated to the TPWD, which is enough to maintain only 11 parks.
Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams told the TPWD that he was not interested in seeing any state parks closing, but for now the chairman and the committee must put their money where their mouth is.
“I just want to publicly say that I'm not interested in seeing any state parks closed.” – state Senator Tommy Williams, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
Closing a state park would be devastating to Texas and to its economy. It takes about 10 years to open a state park, so closing one would cause serious and lasting damage. State parks are vital to tourism and the economy here in Texas, and closing a park not only denies Texans leisurely activities that their tax dollars have paid for, it also threatens our economic viability as a state.
Keep Texas Parks Open, a grassroots movement to restore the funding cuts to state parks, released a poll yesterday showing that a majority of Texans want their state parks fully funded, even during tough economic times.
During the 2011 legislative session, the TPWD had their budget cut by 17% and had to lay off 100 employees, but the funding crisis for state parks goes further back to the diversion of funds from the sporting goods tax. This is to say nothing of past wildfires and the drought that continues to plague all of Texas, and strain the TPWD budget. The sport goods tax is expected to generates $65 million over the next biennium, but most of the the money gets put in other areas of the budget. So Texas taxpayers are already paying into keeping their state parks open, but Texas is failing to maintain the investment. The solution is to create a dedicated fund for the tax, ensuring that the money that is collected for state parks, goes to paying for the state parks. Legislation to this effect has been filed and has bipartisan support.
Visit the Keep Texas Parks Open Facebook page, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website, or visit a local state park to get more involved and help out Texas State Parks!