The Legislative Outlook For Hill Country Water Resources | Texas Public Radio

The Legislative Outlook For Hill Country Water Resources

Apr 3, 2019

This edition of the Texas Water Symposium features lawmakers and analysts looking at current and proposed legislation that will affect water resources and property rights in Texas. Topics addressed include the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, flooding, water well protection, the Texas State Park system, and more.

Recorded March 28, 2019 at the Texas State Capitol building.

Moderator:

Vanessa Puig-Williams, Puig-Williams Law, PLLC

Panelists:

  • Larry Bailey, policy analyst for Rep. Kyle Biedermann, District 73
  • Representative Vikki Goodwin, District 47
  • Representative Andrew Murr, District 53

The Texas Water Symposium is a joint project of the Hill Country Alliance, Schreiner University, Texas Tech University, and Texas Public Radio.

Excerpt [On funding state parks]:

Rep. Andrew Murr: Prior to '93, the State funded parks using a cigarette tax. And so in '93 we transitioned to actually have a portion of sales taxes that are attributable to sporting goods. That is how we now fund our park system, and it makes a lot of sense. Sporting goods relate to a lot of the activities that are common to use of the parks. So they tie that together. The frustration has always been, is while we collect as a state a lot of money from the sporting goods sales tax, we don't spend it all on the parks. And I think, if I'm not mistaken… the 2016-2017 budget is the only one to allocate 100 percent of the sporting goods sales tax to our state park system.

Vanessa Puig-Williams: Yeah I hear and for the last approximately 24 years… even though Texas collected nearly two and a half billion in revenue from the sporting goods sales tax, lawmakers have allocated only about 1 billion of that to parks.

Rep. Murr: Yes. And so what they do is our budget writers take the remaining funds and they'll either not spend it, and it will stay in a bank account, or they'll send it to G.R., General Revenue, and it gets gobbled up for a thousand different uses. The frustration is deferred maintenance. We actually have shuttered facilities. I believe there's 220 state park camping areas that are unusable or in severe need of repair that because of that deferred maintenance. We are skimping by, to a system that no longer serves the growing population's needs. And you pointed out earlier that there's a lot of folks in cities in urban areas. So it is an outlet, an opportunity for them to take their families, and to go and enjoy parts of Texas.

Puig-Williams: And believe me, every weekend the parks are full. You can't get in!

Rep. Murr: Absolutely. So… we want to propose a constitutional amendment that would simply say: sporting goods sales tax, we're going to compartmentalize that, and 100% of those funds go over here, and it's segregated. And it means that it only gets used for parks and you can't go use it for anything else. And so… it de-incentivizes your budget riders to take those funds and spend them in other ways.