In November, a Texas constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot. A simple majority vote will appropriate the revenues from sales tax on sporting goods equipment to fund state parks and historical sites. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Rep. John Cyrier of Bastrop, with the approval of Governor Abbott, led the Texas Legislature to pass bills calling for the constitutional vote.
Between 1993 and 2017, the state’s sporting goods sales tax has generated between $60 million and $165 million annually for a total of $2.5 billion. During that time, only 40% percent of the funding found its way into the budgets of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the Texas Historical Commission as intended. Many citizens incorrectly assumed the taxes they pay on sporting goods were fully allocated to support parks, not realizing that significant portions of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax are diverted to other purposes.
TPWD operates 95 parks and historical sites of its own around the state. The system covers more than 630,000 acres and attracts almost 10 million visitors annually. Its 2019 budget is $86 million, $60 million of which comes from its current share of the sporting goods sales tax. TPWD has been faced with many challenges and needed repairs as a result of severe weather and flooding over the past several years (in the last 10 years, TPWD has experienced more than $100 million in flood damage to park’s facilities around the state), in addition to the expenses required to routinely maintain Texas state parks.
If approved, the amendment would authorize 94% of the revenue to TPWD’s parks and historical sites and 6% to sites under the Texas Historical Commission.