State Parks director Bill Bryan thanks Missourians for their overwhelming support of Amendment One, a one-tenth-of-one-percent sales tax extension for state parks, soil and water conservation.
“80 percent approval in all counties, and that’s never happened before,” says Bryan. “That’s pretty good and it’s a testament to a strong partnership between agriculture and outdoor recreation.”
Bryan testified Thursday in Jefferson City before the Missouri House Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.
The tax brings in about $90 million annually, split evenly between state parks and soil conservation. Governor Jay Nixon (D) says the tax has helped prevent 177-million tons of soil from eroding into state waterways.
The tax was created through a constitutional amendment, and was first approved by Missouri voters in 1984. Voters have now renewed it four times: in 1988, 1996, 2006 and this month.
During Bryan’s testimony, Committee Chairman Craig Redmon (R-Canton) repeated his call for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to focus on maintaining its current park system, before purchasing additional land for park space. Redmon addressed the issue with Bryan.
“I don’t want to get in budget next year and say look at all this deferred maintenance again,” Redmon told Bryan. “I don’t see that coming,” Bryan responded. “I think as we look at the second century of state parks, we need to focus on that and that’s what our focus will be.”
Bryan testified in October that Missouri’s state park system has a $212 million backlog of “unscheduled maintenance”, which is not in DNR’s capital improvement budget.
Missouri’s park system includes 88 state parks and historic sites. DNR says 18-million people visit the state park system annually.