February 07, 2013

I will NOT "tip jar" Texas state parks

Ever since the 2011 Texas Legislature slashed the hell out of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's budget, a number of well meaning environmentalist types have pushed — and pushed heavy at times — the idea of customer donations helping make up the shortfall.

Well, with talk of no budget increase this biennium and possible closures (of up to 20 parks), I'm sure this idea will get a new round of traction.

But not from me.

If anything, it will get more talk in opposition.

To be blunt, all you well-meaning folks, you're enabling bad behavior.

Per the story, we know that even before the budget cuts of two years ago, the Lege continually refused to dedicate all the funds from the state sporting goods sales tax to TP&W.

Per the story, with my emphasis:
This is nothing new. For the previous two-year budget cycle, this so-called dedicated fund was projected to generate $236 million. In the end, the amount that remained for parks was a dismal $52.1 million, leaving the state with a falsely-created balanced budget and TPW officials begging for cash.
See? The Republicans in the Lege have been doing this ... well, basically since they took control of the Lege. Even with no overall expansion in spending, if the "Solons" in Austin gave TP&W the other $184 million, we not only would not have to worry about closing any parks, we could address a backlog of maintenance, etc.

Instead, the "tip jar" idea rewards the libertarian and privatization ideas of many in the Texas GOP.

(Beyond that, because this problem is nothing new, you're tip jarring parks that have that backlog of maintenance, etc., and therefore aren't always fully up to snuff.)

Don't do it.

If parks have to close, so be it. Maybe the Republicans in your state House or Senate district will vote out THEIR bastard next election time, and not ask for others to vote out other bastards.

Beyond that, this is a state that, even with money woes accounted for decades or a century-plus ago, sold off too much of its public land, lied to the feds and therefore blocked a Palo Duro Canyon National Park that would have stretched all the way to today's Caprock Canyons State Park, refused to cooperate with the feds and gave us a Davis Mountains State Park instead of a third national park in West Texas and more.

And, that's part of what hacks me. Having been to Big Bend many a time, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park more than once, I know what a real park, a third West Texas national park, could be like in the Davis Mountains, rather than the state's postage stamp piece of land. Ditto for what Palo Duro really could have been.

Tip-jarring would arguably reward decades of bad behavior, not just a few years. (Don't forget Jerry Patterson turning down land donations because of his gun nuttery, too.)

More on the state of state parks, and what TP&W wants in the new budget, is here. Given the Texas Senate's preliminary budget, you ain't gonna get it.

Feb. 7: Latest news on budget discussions here. Yeah, we'll see if Tommy Williams means it; he's kind of a wingnut.

June 6, 2013: Alleged racism at TPWD doesn't help.

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