MARFA, Texas (CN) — Texas parks will get a funding boost after voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday to address an estimated $800 million maintenance backlog.
Spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park in west Texas had to be closed in summer 2018 due to long-deferred maintenance and was closed again this September for repairs.Proposition 5 was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday, drawing support of more than 80% of Texas voters.
The measure was prompted by a years-long trend of lawmakers diverting money away from parks for other uses. Texas law has for years stipulated that tax revenue from sporting goods sales be allocated to the state parks department and the Texas Historical Commission, but lawmakers have routinely used a portion of that revenue for other purposes.
The amendment approved Tuesday ensures that tax revenue be dedicated to parks and historic sites, though lawmakers could still override the mandate with a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses.
The proposal drew little pushback in Republican-controlled Texas. Two Republican state lawmakers sponsored bills in the last legislative session that led to the amendment being placed on the ballot, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick voiced his support for it as well.
Proposition 5 takes effect in September 2021. The parks department and historical commission are to receive 93% and 7% of sporting goods tax revenue, respectively.
In an October interview, longtime Texas conservationist George Bristol said he believed the public’s frustration with conditions at parks had finally pressured lawmakers into action.
“If you’re going to ask people to come out to their state parks, for which they thought they were paying to be fixed up all along, and the bathrooms are down or shut entirely, the campgrounds are dirty and unkempt, that’s a con job to me,” Bristol said. “I think over a period of years it finally sunk in, when their constituencies raised Cain about their park in their district.”