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Proposition 7 Aims to Boost El Paso Parks

Voters will have 10 state constitutional amendments to consider on Election Day this Tuesday. Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports on Proposition 7, which would create a parks system in El Paso County.

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Voters will have 10 state constitutional amendments to consider on Election Day this Tuesday. Proposition 7 would create a parks system in El Paso County.

Specifically, Prop 7 would allow a conservation and reclamation district to be created in El Paso County to maintain and create parks. If it passes, the 2013 Legislature would still need to authorize creation of the district and grant it taxing authority.

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, helped get the measure on the ballot.

"We've had a long-standing controversy in the county about whether the county should be in the business of operating county parks,” Rodríguez said. “And we have several of them. The city has always been interested in trying to establish a larger park system."

He said creating a district would solve those problems. Once given authority by the Legislature, the district would be allowed to sell bonds to create and maintain parks.

Those bonds would be paid for with an increase in local property taxes. And that's where Prop 7 has encountered opposition.

Empower Texans, a conservative, limited-government advocacy group, says creating a new taxing authority and raising taxes in a weakened economy doesn’t make sense.

But Rodríguez said that even if the proposition passes, an El Paso Parks District would still be a few years and at least one more voter approval away from levying any taxes.

"That entity would have to go to the voters,” he said. “And get authorization from the voters, approval on bond issuances, before increasing any taxes."

But even a possible tax a couple of years from now could be a problematic sell to voters during a sluggish economy — especially when the entire state gets a chance to vote, even though it only affects El Paso County.

Early voting continues through Friday. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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State government José R. Rodríguez Texas Legislature