I urge you in your position as presiding officer of the Texas Senate to take action to assure that our state parks have the necessary funding during the coming biennium and in future years to meet the outdoor recreation needs of the growing population of Texas.
Thank you for your support of adequate funding for major repairs at state parks and for your support of funding for the local parks grants program. Both of these areas are key to restoring our state parks and meeting local recreation demands.
There are three other areas, however, that require your leadership in order to make sure that we correct current problems with state parks and plan well for the future. Please exercise your leadership to accomplish the following:
(1) Provide the funding needed for state park operations (state park personnel, operating expenses, minor repairs, and support equipment) at least at the level recommended last year by the State Parks Advisory Committee, and do not base appropriations for such operations on unrealistic assumptions about how much additional revenue state parks might be able to generate in the next two years.
(2) Provide funds for acquisition of land for new parks and additions to existing parks at least at the level recommended by the State Parks Advisory Committee to meet the goals of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Departments Land and Water Conservation Plan, which resulted from a statewide public input process that demonstrated strong public support for more parkland.
(3) Lift the cap on the revenue from the sporting goods tax that may be allocated to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for state and local park programs.
The concern about retaining flexibility in the state budget to address changing needs is understood.
Our state and local parks have been short-changed for so long, however, that funding at a high level will be needed for years in order to overcome the problems that have resulted from inadequate funding.
Moreover, as the states population continues to grow, park programs need a revenue source, such as the sporting goods tax, that will grow with the state.
There are many important decisions that the Texas Legislature will make this session that will shape the future of Texas. The decisions on funding for state and local parks are as important as any other the Legislature will make. Your personal leadership will be key to those decisions.
Please act for current and future generations to provide the funding needed for our public parks.