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Kevin Eltife was honored by the Samaritan Counseling Center as the Person of Courage Award recipient in 2018.

Please join me in voting yes on Proposition 5 on Tuesday.

Hunting, fishing and enjoying the great outdoors are important to our way of life here in East Texas. Our state and local parks provide important public space for us all to enjoy.

We have an opportunity to ensure our parks and historical sites continue to be a source of recreation and enjoyment for future generations.

When I was mayor of Tyler, there was no better friend to our community parks than the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

What many Texans don’t know is that in addition to overseeing 95 parks across the state, the department also has a matching grant program that helps local communities, like Tyler, build and enhance public recreation areas for its citizens, and Tyler and other communities have benefited greatly from this program.

In 1993, the Legislature found a unique way to create a revenue stream for our parks. To replace an existing penny-a-pack cigarette tax, which was declining, lawmakers envisioned a sporting goods sales tax (SGST), levied on the sale of items like kayaks, fishing tackle and golf clubs. It was not a new tax, but rather a portion of the existing sales tax.

The move was supported by park enthusiasts and conservationists alike as a practical way to raise revenue. As more consumers spent money on sporting goods, they would undoubtedly be increasing use of outdoor recreation facilities. Revenue raised would help keep up with demand for parks and amenities.

Unfortunately, the funds have not consistently found their way to the parks. In fact, from 1993 to 2017, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the SGST, yet less than half of that amount has gone to the parks.

When I served in the Senate, I advocated on behalf of a constitutional amendment that would dedicate the funds as the law intended. And while it did not come to be while I was in the Legislature, this year the Legislature agreed to put it on the November ballot.

Proposition 5 on Tuesday’s ballot will ensure that the sporting goods sales tax revenue is spent — as intended by the law — on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

Join me in voting yes on Proposition 5 on. Our parks have been there for us. Let’s be there for our parks.

Kevin Eltife is on the Board of Regents for the University of Texas System. He previously served in the Texas Senate, as mayor of Tyler and was on the Tyler City Council.

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