February 20, 2007
Dedicating the sporting goods tax

South Texas Chisme looks at the headline Legislature to debate the use of sporting goods tax for parks and wails in despair "WHY IS THERE EVEN A DEBATE? WHY WASN'T THAT TAX USED FOR PARKS BEFORE?" I don't have a good answer to that question (the short version of the long and depressing answer is "because there was nothing to stop the Lege from raiding those funds for other purposes as they saw fit"), and what's worse, I'm not sure that the proposed fix really addresses the underlying issue.

Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, filed a constitutional amendment proposal on Monday that would allow voters to decide whether to dedicate the sporting goods tax for Texas parks.

It takes a two-thirds majority vote in both House and Senate chambers to advance a constitutional amendment proposal to the election ballot.

"This constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure that the money from the sporting goods tax goes toward the purpose for which it was intended," Hilderbran said.

Hilderbran wants to dedicate all the money from the sporting goods tax -- more than $100 million per year -- toward state and local parks, many of which have suffered neglect because of money shortages.

State lawmakers dedicated the sales tax on sporting goods for state parks in 1993 but capped that amount two years later at $32 million. Last year, lawmakers used only $20 million of the tax's proceeds on state and local parks. More than $80 million from the tax flowed into the state's general revenue fund.

Hilderbran has 118 co-sponsors for his House Bill 6, which would eliminate the $32 million cap. He chairs the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee, which will hear public testimony on the bill today.

Emphasis mine. If parks wound up with less than the maximum amount they were allowed, then what good will eliminating the cap do? What will stop the Lege from doing the same thing with no cap as they did with a $32 million cap when parks weren't even getting that $32 million to begin with?

Don't get me wrong, I support Hilderbran's proposal. I just think it's only solving part of the problem. It will make more money available to the parks, but it won't ensure that they get it. Until that happens, watch out. B and B and Capitol Annex have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2007 to That's our Lege