We all thought that legislation passed in the last session forever dedicated 94% of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to fund state parks. NOT SO!

Because of an error in the wording of a related piece of legislation, dedication of the 94% of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to state parks was NOT PERMANENT, as intended. The bill that was passed wound up providing funding for state parks only for the 2016-2017 biennium.

Unless the Texas Legislature takes action before the end of the current session (May 29), Texas state parks will see a $92.5 million short-fall for the 2018-2019 biennium. This shortfall will have dire consequences for the state park system. Reduced staff will mean reduced hours of operation for many parks. Some parks will have to be closed altogether. Repairs that have begun will not be completed. And the development of new parks, such as Palo Pinto Mountains State Park near Fort Worth, will not happen.

Passage of House Bill 78, by Representative Ryan Guillen, would correct the error in bill language and dedicate 94% of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to state parks into the future, as was originally intended. The House Appropriations Committee has yet to have a hearing on HB 78.

If passed, HB 78 would not take effect in time to correct the short-fall for the 2018-2019 biennium. To provide the missing $92.5 million that was supposed to have been dedicated to state parks, the Texas Legislature will have to vote to appropriate those funds from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax. The conference committee has been formed. Unless the conference committee and the Legislature move to correct the mistaken language and appropriate the $92.5 million in the Sporting Goods Sales Tax, long-overdue repairs in Texas state parks will not take place and Texans’ park experiences will continue to decline.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask your Texas State House Representative to take the the following actions (it would also be helpful to personalize your request which might include some of the background described above):

  1. That the legislators request a hearing on House Bill 78, which would authorize 94% of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to state parks, as intended.
  2. That the legislators urge the conference committee to fully appropriate 94% of Sporting Goods Sales Tax for the coming biennium.

Go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx to learn who represents you. Check their web pages and contact them - please take action NOW! We believe this is an easy process as you simply enter your address on that page to find out who represents you, and then you click on the resultant links to get to the page for your particular representative, and each legislator page has a link where you can send an E-mail to them. If you are motivated enough, the phone numbers are also listed where you can call. It also doesn't hurt to send a personal postal letter if there is time.

Thanks to Janice Bezanson, Executive Director of the Texas Conservation Alliance for bringing this to our attention - most of this is in her words and we kept them in tact.