Environment Texas Praises Straus Choice of Rep. Alexander

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Environment Texas

AUSTIN – Environment Texas praised the announcement today by Speaker-designate Joe Straus that former state Rep. Clyde Alexander will serve as part of his transition team. Rep. Alexander has served as a member of the State Parks Advisory Committee, which conducted a thorough review of the budget crisis facing the state parks system.
“Texas parks will have a friend at the highest level in the new Speaker’s office,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “At a time when Texas parks are struggling under a enormous backlog of needed repairs and funding for new park land acquisition is virtually non-existent, it is very encouraging to know that someone with an intimate knowledge of the needs of our parks will be advising the new Speaker”.

Since 1993, the state of Texas has funded the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in part through a tax on sporting goods. Although this tax produces more than $100 million in revenues per year, legislators in 1995 capped the funding for TPW at $32 million per year – unadjusted for inflation. In 2007, the Legislature used mainly general revenues and new voter-approved bonds to more than double funding for the parks for two years. However, they did not lift the cap permanently.

In addition, according to the State Parks Advisory Committee on which Mr. Alexander served, Texas has not had a major land acquisition program since 1967. In 2007, the Legislature only appropriated money for acquisition of new parkland from the sale of existing parkland and appropriated some funds to add land to existing parks.

“With the real-estate market still reeling, Texas has a chance to protect our cherished landscapes at bargain prices,” said Metzger.  “But without stable funding schemes, we are missing this historic opportunity to protect our natural heritage.”

Funding shortfalls at TPW affect the ability of local governments to protect open space as well. Historically, TPW has devoted just over one-half of its revenues from the sporting goods tax to provide grants to local governments for the acquisition and development of local parks facilities. However, since 1993, TPW has had to reject more than 60 percent of applications (for a total of $185 million in unfunded requests), because of a lack of funding. 

Environment Texas is pushing the Legislature to create stable and substantial funding for state and local parks by permanently removing the cap on the sporting goods tax and creating a major land acquisition program to meet the state’s growing demand for outdoor recreation and to protect critical natural areas and water resources.