Act Now for Full Funding for Texas State & Local Parks!
House and Senate versions of the proposed Texas state budget for 2008-2009 fall short of the funding needed by Parks & Wildlife for state and local parks.
The House-Senate conference committee on HB 1 (the “appropriations” bill) needs to include full funding for state and local parks in the final version of HB 1 reported back to the Texas House and Senate.
Contact the five State Representatives and the five State Senators on the conference committee for HB 1 and urge them to include full funding for state and local parks in the final appropriations bill.
Please Act By: Friday, May 4, 2007
The House & Senate Conferees and Their
For well over a year prior to the opening of this spring’s state legislative session the citizens of Texas made clear their concern about inadequate funding for our state parks system and local parks grants.
That concern was awakened by two major events: a proposed sale of part of Big Bend Ranch State Park in August 2005 and the public announcement by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (Parks & Wildlife) of state parks staff layoffs and park closures in December 2005 due to a lack of funding.
A State Parks Advisory Committee was established, studied the issue for several months, and produced a report in August 2006 recommending an additional $85 million a year ($170 million for the biennium) in funding for state and local parks to bring the parks system back to a respectable level of operation.
This figure does not include additional money that might be needed for repairs at the Texas State Railroad and the Battleship Texas, both operated by Parks & Wildlife.
Parks funding became an issue in the 2006 Texas governor’s race and in a number of state legislative races.
The Speaker of the Texas House indicated his support for increased funding for parks.
Thus far in this legislative session, however, the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill (House Bill 1) – the legislation that sets the state agency budgets for 2008 and 2009 – do not propose to give Parks & Wildlife all of the funds the State Parks Advisory Committee identified as needed for state and local parks (although each bill increases parks funding over current levels).
The House version falls roughly $75 million short of the $170 million additional money recommended for the next biennium by the State Parks Advisory Committee. The Senate version falls roughly $83 million short of the $170 million.
The House and Senate versions of HB 1 must be reconciled in a conference committee of five House members and five Senate members who have recently been appointed.
The five State Representatives are Warren Chisum (Pampa), Ryan Guillen (San Diego), Dan Gattis (Georgetown), Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham), and Sylvester Turner (Houston). The five State Senators are Steve Ogden (Bryan), Judith Zaffirini (Laredo), Robert Duncan (Lubbock), John Whitmire (Houston), and Tommy Williams (The Woodlands).
Once the conference committee has agreed on the final version of HB 1, it will be reported back to the House and Senate as a “conference report” on HB1 and will be voted up or down by the membership of each house.
Once approved by both houses the budget bill goes to the Governor.
Communications are needed immediately to the members of the conference committee on HB 1 to urge that they include in the state appropriations bill full funding for state park operations and local parks grants at least at the level recommended by the State Parks Advisory Committee in 2006 - $170 million in additional money for the biennium, including money for acquisition of new parkland.