Texas State Railroad Funded Through August 2007

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Railroad State Park will continue operating through Aug. 31, 2007, although the historic train’s long-term future is tied to the broader issue of state funding for parks to be resolved in the upcoming legislative session.

Within the last few days, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Legislative Budget Board verified that the department has an additional $2.2 million available for state parks. That amount includes a $1.2 million oil and gas lease bonus payment which is a one-time, non–recurring source of revenue.

“We are pleased that we’re able to keep the Texas State Railroad running, and we’re grateful to state elected leaders for their guidance and to the community supporters who have rallied behind the railroad,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “This is good news, and will provide adequate funding to operate the railroad through the spring and summer of 2007.”

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick sent a letter to Cook dated Nov. 27 stating “We believe there to be sufficient appropriations within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department budget to fund the Texas State Railroad through August 31, 2007.” The letter went on to reference Rider 27 passed in the last legislative session, which allows TPWD to spend additional revenue it brings in beyond the estimates the state comptroller projects. The letter said TPWD should have about $18.1 million in additional revenue for fiscal year 2006 and that a similar amount could be expected in FY 2007.

Of the $18.1 million amount, only $2.2 million is “new” state park revenue for FY 2007. (TPWD’s fiscal year runs Sep. 1-Aug. 31). Of the rest, $11 million is hunting and fishing license and boat registration revenue, which by law cannot be used for state parks. The remaining $4.9 million is state park revenue that is already budgeted and is being used for park operations.

“The level of local community interest and support to keep the railroad going has been much appreciated,” said Joseph Fitzsimons, who chairs the TPW Commission appointed by the governor to oversee TPWD. “When push came to shove last year, the department had to make difficult choices for the good of the entire state park system, and the railroad is a big ticket expense. We look forward to continuing to work with state and local leaders in implementing their plan to move the Texas State Railroad from state to local control.”

For more information about state and local park funding, see the TPWD Web site.

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