November 12, 2019

Texas: Voters Approve Constitutional Amendment to Fully Dedicate Sporting Goods Sales Tax to State Parks and Historic Sites

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

On Tuesday, November 5, Texas voters took to the ballot box and approved the constitutional amendment known as Proposition 5, which fully dedicates the sales tax revenue for certain sporting goods items to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Parks Division (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The full dedication of these funds will significantly improve the Park Division’s ability to complete long-term planning and address the changing and growing needs of Texas’ state parks and historic sites, as well as improve hunting and fishing opportunities for Texas’ sportsmen and women.

Currently, sporting goods sales tax revenue must be allocated to TWPD by the legislature, a process that also grants the legislature power to allocate this revenue for other uses. In fact, the amount allocated to TPWD has often been well below the maximum threshold of available funds generated by the sporting goods sales tax. Recognizing that the allocation of these funds was inconsistent with the original intent of the sporting goods sales tax, Texas’ 86th Legislature unanimously passed SB 26, thereby introducing Proposition 5. Passing with 88% support among Texas voters, Proposition 5 will fully take effect on September 1, 2021 and ensure that revenue from the sporting goods sales tax is automatically allocated to TPWD and THC without need for the appropriations process.

Generating an estimated $168.5 million in Fiscal Year 2019, the full allocation of Texas’ sporting goods sales tax will provide significant funding to support Texas’ state parks and historic sites. Through improved access and opportunities for hunters and anglers on Texas’ state parks, this sales tax on outdoor gear represents a viable example that has been explored in other states as a supplement to the American System of Conservation Funding, the “user pays – public benefits” structure that largely funds state wildlife and fisheries management. However, it is important that safeguards exist to prevent these funds from being diverted to other accounts.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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