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San Antonians should pay close attention to two propositions on the ballot for the Nov. 5 statewide election.
Proposition 5 calls for a constitutional amendment requiring money from sporting goods sales tax in the state to be used only for Texas state parks and historic sites. Proposition 8 calls for a “constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”
If you are a lover of the great outdoors, you may have noticed that Texas’ state parks are getting a bit worse for the wear. For example, the bathrooms at Guadalupe State Park have been out of order for some time now. Chronic underfunding has placed a strain on maintaining infrastructure in our state parks.
In 1993 Texas authorized a tax on sporting goods to go toward a fund to support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Since then, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the sporting goods sales tax, yet only 40 percent of that amount has been appropriated for parks.
A vote for Proposition 5 will mandate that the State of Texas devote 100 percent of the sporting goods tax funds to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to be used for capital improvements and maintenance for parks and historical landmarks, and to purchase land for new parks and trails. Proposition 5 will not increase the amount of sporting goods taxes – it will just ensure that these taxes are to be spent as originally intended.
Longtime San Antonians will recall all too many occasions when rainfalls in the amount of 8-15 inches fell in a few hours, causing rivers to rise 11-15 feet in some cases. If you’ve recently moved to San Antonio, you may not know that you now reside in Flash Flood Alley, a region of Central Texas designated by the National Weather Service as the most flash flood prone region in North America, leading in the number of flash and river flooding-related deaths annually.
Proposition 8 will allocate $739 million to be used for planning, seeking permits for, or constructing flood-related projects. This flood infrastructure fund will require no new taxes or bonds as money will come, appropriately enough, from a one-time distribution from the State’s rainy day fund, which currently stands at $11 billion dollars. The fund would be distributed to local governments through loans or, in some cases, grants. As loans are repaid, money would become available for new projects.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and our allies across the state have been working hard to ensure that the funding will be administered equitably and used wisely. Thanks to concerted efforts, green infrastructure, and opportunities to purchase land and conservation easements to mitigate flooding are eligible for funding under Proposition 8. In some instances, purchase of land and/or conservation easements may be the most cost effective strategy for flood control.
With increased development in the Texas Hill Country comes increases in impervious cover. Already, cities like Boerne and Bulverde wrestle with torrents of storm water flowing into ephemeral streams to flood previously unaffected properties. This scenario, complicated by predictions of even more severe storms on the horizon due to changing climate, will lead to tragedy if not addressed. Comprehensive planning for flood control that considers entire watersheds is long overdue.
Likewise, with the population of Central Texas growing by leaps and bounds, we will need our parks and trails to provide ecosystem services – such as flood mitigation, recharging clean water to our aquifers, sequestering carbon in green spaces, and providing a haven for birds and wildlife – and safe venues to keep our population engaged in outdoor recreation for health and fitness. Passage of Proposition 5 will go a long way to making sure our Texas parks continue to provide all the services we expect from them while requiring no new taxes.
Election day is Nov. 5, and I urge all Texans to vote for Propositions 5 and 8.