Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Texas Parks Funds Not Getting To The Parks

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has exposed the travesty going on in our state parks is the last few weeks. Our parks are rapidly falling into disrepair, and many are in danger of closing. This is all because of a lack of funds at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It's not that the funds are unavailable. Our officials have just fallen into the habit of taking the money and spending it on something else. We have already heard about funds from the sale of speciality conservation license plates and from a sporting goods tax. Both were supposed to be dedicated for use by TPW, but most of the money never got to them.

Now we learn that those weren't the only parks dedicated funds that went awry. Now we learn of a state fund composed of money from hunting and fishing licenses, boat registrations, and federal taxes on hunting and fishing gear. This fund receives about $90 a year, but only about half is actually given to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The other half has been used by the governor and the Texas legislature to help balance the state budget. Instead of adequately funding neccessary state projects and activities, our state elected officials have been robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Instead of seeing that government is fully funded in Texas, Texas officials have played politics with the future of Texas. They have used money for purposes it was not meant for, and they have cut taxes for votes, without regard to what they are doing to Texas. It is now time to pay the piper. Our state parks can wait no longer. They must be adequately funded or we will start to lose them. Once the parks are closed, they stand a chance of being sold off by the Republicans, as they are trying to do with several pieces of state property right now.

I believe we are going to have to vote the Republicans out of office to solve this problem. They are far too used to playing games with our money, and at this point their stewardship must be questioned. Sadly enough, the Parks and Wildlife Department is not the only state agency being hurt by these policies. All state agencies are currently operating on a shoe-string budget, and have been asked to cut another 10% in the coming biennium.

There is a bit of good news. The state is delaying the sale of its 400 acre tract of land around Eagle Mountain Lake, north of Fort Worth. Hopefully, this 120 day delay will allow opponents of the sale time to organize their efforts to turn the land into a new state park. The state had wanted to sell the land "because it wasn't being used." Using this logic, they could sell off any state parks that have to be closed by the faux budget crunch.

Instead of selling off state land and giving the rich more tax breaks, our government should be adequately funding public activities for the good of all the citizens of Texas. Doing anything less would be a betrayal of all Texans.

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